The recently reported X-ray structures of cytochrome oxidase reveal structures that are likely proton-conducting channels. One of these channels, leading from the negative aqueous surface to the heme a3/Cu(B) bimetallic center, contains a lysine as a central element. Previous work has shown that this lysine (K362 in the oxidase from Rhodobacter sphaeroides) is essential for cytochrome c oxidase activity. The data presented demonstrate that the K362M mutant is impeded in the reduction of the heme a3/Cu(B) bimetallic center, probably by interfering with the intramolecular movement of protons. The reduction of the heme-copper center is required prior to the reaction with dioxygen to form the so-called peroxy intermediate (compound P). This block can be by-passed to some extent by the addition of H2O2, which can react with the enzyme without prereduction of the heme-copper center and can then be reduced to water using electrons from cytochrome c. Hence, the K362M mutant, though lacking oxidase activity, exhibits cytochrome c peroxidase activity. Rapid mixing techniques have been used to determine the kinetics of this peroxidase activity at concentrations of H2O2 up to 0.5 M. The K(m) for peroxide is about 50 mM and the V(max) is 50 electrons s-1, which is considerably slower than the turnover that can be obtained for the oxidase activity of the wild-type enzyme (1200 s-1). The turnover of the mutant oxidase with H202 appears to be limited by the rate of reaction of the enzyme with peroxide to form compound P, rather than the rate of reduction of compound P to water by cytochrome c. The data require a reexamination of the proposed roles of the putative proton-conducting channels.
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