To assess if cytochrome c oxidase could determine the response of mitochondrial respiration to changes in environmental temperature in ectotherms, we performed KCN titration of the respiration rate and cytochrome c oxidase activity in mitochondria from Arctic charr (Salvelinusfontinalis) muscle at four different temperatures (1 degrees C, 6 degrees C, 12 degrees C, and 18 degrees C). Our data showed an excess of cytochrome c oxidase activity over the mitochondrial state 3 respiration rate. Mitochondrial oxygen consumption rates reached approximately 12% of the cytochrome c oxidase maximal capacity at every temperature. Also, following titration, the mitochondrial respiration rate significantly decreased when KCN reached concentrations that inhibit almost 90% of the cytochrome c oxidase activity. This strongly supports the idea that the thermal sensitivity of the maximal mitochondrial respiration rate cannot be dictated by the effect of temperature on cytochrome c oxidase catalytic capacity. Furthermore, the strong similarity of the Q10s of mitochondrial respiration and cytochrome c oxidase activity suggests a functional or structural link between the two. The functional link could be coevolution of parts of the mitochondrial system to maintain optimal functions in most of the temperature range encountered by organisms.