Understanding the mechanistic coupling of molecular oxygen reduction and proton pumping for adenosine triphosphate synthesis during cellular respiration is the primary goal of research on heme-copper oxidases—the terminal complex in the membrane-bound electron transport chain. Cleavage of the oxygen-oxygen bond by the heme-copper oxidases forms the key intermediate PM, which initiates proton pumping. This intermediate is now experimentally defined by variable-temperature, variable-field magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy on a previously unobserved excited state feature associated with its heme iron(IV)-oxo center. These data provide evidence that the iron(IV)-oxo in PM is magnetically coupled to both a copper(II) and a cross-linked tyrosyl radical in the active site. These results provide new insight into the oxygen-oxygen bond cleavage and proton-pumping mechanisms of heme-copper oxidases.
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