Coupled proton and electron transfer reactions in cytochrome oxidase

Front Biosci. 2004 Jan 1;9:581-91. doi: 10.2741/1237.


Cytochrome oxidase catalyzes the four-electron reduction of O2 to water and conserves the substantial free energy of the reaction in the form of a protonmotive force. For each electron, two full charges are translocated across the membrane, resulting in a voltage. One of the mechanisms to generate the charge separation in cytochrome oxidase is via a proton pump. A single reaction cycle can be monitored over the course of about 1 msec using absorption spectroscopy, revealing distinct intermediates. Thus, the reaction cycle can be studied as a series of steps. Each of the reaction steps in the catalytic cycle involves a sequence of coupled electron and proton transfer reaction, where protons are either consumed in the chemistry of water formation or pumped across the membrane. The pumping mechanism requires consideration of both the thermodynamics of the various species but also the favored kinetic pathways that assure proton pumping is unidirectional. Hence, a knowledge of transition states and transiently, poorly populated intermediates is likely to be important to understand the mechanism of the pump.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Electron Transport / physiology*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism*
  • Electrons*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Proton Pumps / metabolism*
  • Protons*


  • Proton Pumps
  • Protons
  • Electron Transport Complex IV