Functional significance of conserved histidines and arginines in the 49-kDa subunit of mitochondrial complex I

J Biol Chem. 2004 May 14;279(20):21193-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M313180200. Epub 2004 Mar 5.


We have studied the ubiquinone-reducing catalytic core of NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) from Yarrowia lipolytica by a series of point mutations replacing conserved histidines and arginines in the 49-kDa subunit. Our results show that histidine 226 and arginine 141 probably do not ligate iron-sulfur cluster N2 but that exchanging these residues specifically influences the properties of this redox center. Histidines 91 and 95 were found to be essential for ubiquinone reductase activity of complex I. Mutations at the C-terminal arginine 466 affected ubiquinone affinity and inhibitor sensitivity but also destabilized complex I. These results provide further support for a high degree of structural conservation between the 49-kDa subunit of complex I and its ancestor, the large subunit of water-soluble [NiFe] hydrogenases. In several mutations of histidine 226, arginine 141, and arginine 466 the characteristic EPR signatures of iron-sulfur cluster N2 became undetectable, but specific, inhibitor-sensitive ubiquinone reductase activity was only moderately reduced. As we could not find spectroscopic indications for a modified cluster N2, we concluded that these complex I mutants were lacking most of this redox center but were still capable of catalyzing inhibitor-resistant ubiquinone reduction at near normal rates. We discuss that this at first surprising scenario may be explained by electron transfer theory; after removal of a single redox center in a chain, electron transfer rates are predicted to be still much faster than steady-state turnover of complex I. Our results question some of the central mechanistic functions that have been put forward for iron-sulfur cluster N2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Arginine
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Electron Transport Complex I / chemistry*
  • Electron Transport Complex I / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Histidine
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Subunits / chemistry
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Yarrowia / enzymology
  • Yarrowia / genetics


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Histidine
  • Arginine
  • Electron Transport Complex I