Plasma membranes isolated from wild-type Saccharomyces cerevisiae crude membrane fractions catalyzed NADH oxidation using a variety of electron acceptors, such as ferricyanide, cytochrome c, and ascorbate free radical. Plasma membranes from the deletion mutant strain coq3delta, defective in coenzyme Q (ubiquinone) biosynthesis, were completely devoid of coenzyme Q6 and contained greatly diminished levels of NADH-ascorbate free radical reductase activity (about 10% of wild-type yeasts). In contrast, the lack of coenzyme Q6 in these membranes resulted in only a partial inhibition of either the ferricyanide or cytochrome-c reductase. Coenzyme Q dependence of ferricyanide and cytochrome-c reductases was based mainly on superoxide generation by one-electron reduction of quinones to semiquinones. Ascorbate free radical reductase was unique because it was highly dependent on coenzyme Q and did not involve superoxide since it was not affected by superoxide dismutase (SOD). Both coenzyme Q6 and NADH-ascorbate free radical reductase were rescued in plasma membranes derived from a strain obtained by transformation of the coq3delta strain with a single-copy plasmid bearing the wild type COQ3 gene and in plasma membranes isolated form the coq3delta strain grown in the presence of coenzyme Q6. The enzyme activity was inhibited by the quinone antagonists chloroquine and dicumarol, and after membrane solubilization with the nondenaturing detergent Zwittergent 3-14. The various inhibitors used did not affect residual ascorbate free radical reductase of the coq3delta strain. Ascorbate free radical reductase was not altered significantly in mutants atp2delta and cor1delta which are also respiration-deficient but not defective in ubiquinone biosynthesis, demonstrating that the lack of ascorbate free radical reductase in coq3delta mutants is related solely to the inability to synthesize ubiquinone and not to the respiratory-defective phenotype. For the first time, our results provide genetic evidence for the participation of ubiquinone in NADH-ascorbate free radical reductase, as a source of electrons for transmembrane ascorbate stabilization.
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