We have compared the efficacy of inhibition of the cytochrome bc1 complexes from yeast and bovine heart mitochondria and Paracoccus denitrificans by antimycin, ilicicolin H, and funiculosin, three inhibitors that act at the quinone reduction site at center N of the enzyme. Although the three inhibitors have some structural features in common, they differ significantly in their patterns of inhibition. Also, while the overall folding pattern of cytochrome b around center N is similar in the enzymes from the three species, amino acid sequence differences create sufficient structural differences so that there are striking differences in the inhibitors binding to the three enzymes. Antimycin is the most tightly bound of the three inhibitors, and binds stoichiometrically to the isolated enzymes from all three species under the cytochrome c reductase assay conditions. Ilicicolin H also binds stoichiometrically to the yeast enzyme, but binds approximately 2 orders of magnitude less tightly to the bovine enzyme and is essentially non-inhibitory to the Paracoccus enzyme. Funiculosin on the other hand inhibits the yeast and bovine enzymes similarly, with IC50 approximately 10 nM, while the IC50 for the Paracoccus enzyme is more than 10-fold higher. Similar differences in inhibitor efficacy were noted in bc1 complexes from yeast mutants with single amino acid substitutions at the center N site, although the binding affinity of quinone and quinol substrates were not perturbed to a degree that impaired catalytic function in the variant enzymes. These results reveal a high degree of specificity in the determinants of ligand-binding at center N, accompanied by sufficient structural plasticity for substrate binding as to not compromise center N function. The results also demonstrate that, in principle, it should be possible to design novel inhibitors targeted toward center N of the bc1 complex with appropriate species selectivity to allow their use as drugs against pathogenic fungi and parasites.