Supramolecular Organization of Respiratory Complexes

Annu Rev Physiol. 2016:78:533-61. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-021115-105031. Epub 2015 Dec 16.


Since the discovery of the existence of superassemblies between mitochondrial respiratory complexes, such superassemblies have been the object of a passionate debate. It is accepted that respiratory supercomplexes are structures that occur in vivo, although which superstructures are naturally occurring and what could be their functional role remain open questions. The main difficulty is to make compatible the existence of superassemblies with the corpus of data that drove the field to abandon the early understanding of the physical arrangement of the mitochondrial respiratory chain as a compact physical entity (the solid model). This review provides a nonexhaustive overview of the evolution of our understanding of the structural organization of the electron transport chain from the original idea of a compact organization to a view of freely moving complexes connected by electron carriers. Today supercomplexes are viewed not as a revival of the old solid model but rather as a refined revision of the fluid model, which incorporates a new layer of structural and functional complexity.

Keywords: OXPHOS; cell respiration; electron transport chain; mitochondria; supercomplexes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electron Transport / physiology*
  • Electron-Transferring Flavoproteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / physiology


  • Electron-Transferring Flavoproteins