The Q-Cycle Mechanism of the bc1 Complex: A Biologist's Perspective on Atomistic Studies

Antony R. Crofts, Stuart W. Rose, Rodney L. Burton, Amit V. Desai, Paul J.A. Kenis, Sergei A. Dikanov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Q-cycle mechanism of the bc1 complex is now well enough understood to allow application of advanced computational approaches to the study of atomistic processes. In addition to the main features of the mechanism, these include control and gating of the bifurcated reaction at the Qo-site, through which generation of damaging reactive oxygen species is minimized. We report a new molecular dynamics model of the Rhodobacter sphaeroides bc1 complex implemented in a native membrane, and constructed so as to eliminate blemishes apparent in earlier Rhodobacter models. Unconstrained MD simulations after equilibration with ubiquinol and ubiquinone respectively at Qo- and Qi-sites show that substrate binding configurations at both sites are different in important details from earlier models. We also demonstrate a new Qo-site intermediate, formed in the sub-ms time range, in which semiquinone remains complexed with the reduced iron sulfur protein. We discuss this, and a spring-loaded mechanism for modulating interactions of the iron sulfur protein with occupants of the Qo-site, in the context of control and gating roles. Such atomistic features of the mechanism can usefully be explored through simulation, but we stress the importance of constraints from physical chemistry and biology, both in setting up a simulation and in interpreting results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3701-3717
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 20 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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