Complex I (NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase) is central to energy metabolism in mammalian mitochondria. It couples NADH oxidation by ubiquinone to proton transport across the energy-conserving inner membrane, catalyzing respiration and driving ATP synthesis. In the absence of substrates, active complex I gradually enters a pronounced resting or deactive state. The active-deactive transition occurs during ischemia and is crucial for controlling how respiration recovers upon reperfusion. Here, we set a highly active preparation of Bos taurus complex I into the biochemically defined deactive state, and used single-particle electron cryomicroscopy to determine its structure to 4.1 Å resolution. We show that the deactive state arises when critical structural elements that form the ubiquinone-binding site become disordered, and we propose reactivation is induced when substrate binding to the NADH-reduced enzyme templates their reordering. Our structure both rationalizes biochemical data on the deactive state and offers new insights into its physiological and cellular roles.
Keywords: NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase; PEGylated gold grid; cryo-EM; disordered protein structure; electron transport chain; membrane protein; mitochondria.
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