The three-dimensional structure of cytochrome c oxidase (COX) reveals two potential input proton channels connecting the redox core of the enzyme with the negatively charged (N-) aqueous phase. These are denoted as the K- channel (for the highly conserved lysine residue, K362 in Rhodobacter sphaeroides COX) and the D-channel (for the highly conserved aspartate gating the channel at the N-side, D132 in R. sphaeroides). In this paper, it is shown that the K362M mutant form of COX from R. sphaeroides, although unable to turnover with dioxygen as electron acceptor, can utilize hydrogen peroxide as an electron acceptor, with either cytochrome c or ferrocyanide as electron donors, with turnover that is close to that of the wild-type enzyme. The peroxidase activity is similar to that of the wild-type oxidase and is coupled to the generation of a membrane potential and to proton pumping. In contrast, no peroxidase activity is revealed in the D-channel mutants of COX, D132N, and E286Q. Reduction by dithionite of heme a3 in the fully oxidized oxidase is severely inhibited in the K362M mutant, but not in the D132N mutant. Apparently, mutations in the D-channel arrest COX turnover by inhibiting proton uptake associated with the proton-pumping peroxidase phase of the COX catalytic cycle. In contrast, the K-channel appears to be dispensable for the peroxidase phase of the catalytic cycle, but is required for the initial reduction of the heme-copper binuclear center in the first half of the catalytic cycle.
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