We have studied the mobility of coenzyme Q (CoQ) in lipid bilayers and mitochondrial membranes in relation to the control of electron transfer activities. A molecular dynamics computer simulation in the vacuum yielded a folded structure for CoQ10, with a length of only 21 A. Using this information we were able to calculate diffusion coefficients in the range of 10(-6) cm2/s in good agreement with those found experimentally by fluorescence quenching of pyrene derivatives. To investigate if CoQ diffusion may represent the rate-limiting step of electron transfer, we reconstituted complexes I and III and assayed the resulting NADH-cytochrome c reductase activity in presence of different CoQ10 levels and at different distances between complexes; the experimental turnovers were higher than the collision frequencies calculated using diffusion coefficients of 10(-9) cm2/s but compatible with values found by us by fluorescence quenching. Since the experimental turnovers are independent of the distance between complexes, we conclude that CoQ diffusion is not rate-limiting for electron transfer.