Functional interactions between membrane-bound transporters and membranes

Linda Näsvik Öjemyr, Hyun Ju Lee, Robert B. Gennis, Peter Brzezinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One key role of many cellular membranes is to hold a transmembrane electrochemical ion gradient that stores free energy, which is used, for example, to generate ATP or to drive transmembrane transport processes. In mitochondria and many bacteria, the gradient is maintained by proton-transport proteins that are part of the respiratory (electron-transport) chain. Even though our understanding of the structure and function of these proteins has increased significantly, very little is known about the specific role of functional protein-membrane and membrane-mediated protein-protein interactions. Here, we have investigated the effect of membrane incorporation on proton-transfer reactions within the membrane-bound proton pump cytochrome c oxidase. The results show that the membrane acts to accelerate proton transfer into the enzyme's catalytic site and indicate that the intramolecular proton pathway is wired via specific amino acid residues to the two-dimensional space defined by the membrane surface. We conclude that the membrane not only acts as a passive barrier insulating the interior of the cell from the exterior solution, but also as a component of the energy-conversion machinery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15763-15767
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 7 2010


  • Cytochrome aa
  • Electron transfer
  • Energy transduction
  • Membrane protein
  • Respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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