Cytochrome c (Cyt c) plays a vital role in the mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC). In addition, it is a key regulator of apoptosis. Cyt c has multiple other functions including ROS production and scavenging, cardiolipin peroxidation, and mitochondrial protein import. Cyt c is tightly regulated by allosteric mechanisms, tissue-specific isoforms, and post-translational modifications (PTMs). Distinct residues of Cyt c are modified by PTMs, primarily phosphorylations, in a highly tissue-specific manner. These modifications downregulate mitochondrial ETC flux and adjust the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm), to minimize reactive oxygen species (ROS) production under normal conditions. In pathologic and acute stress conditions, such as ischemia-reperfusion, phosphorylations are lost, leading to maximum ETC flux, ΔΨm hyperpolarization, excessive ROS generation, and the release of Cyt c. It is also the dephosphorylated form of the protein that leads to maximum caspase activation. We discuss the complex regulation of Cyt c and propose that it is a central regulatory step of the mammalian ETC that can be rate limiting in normal conditions. This regulation is important because it maintains optimal intermediate ΔΨm, limiting ROS generation. We examine the role of Cyt c PTMs, including phosphorylation, acetylation, methylation, nitration, nitrosylation, and sulfoxidation and consider their potential biological significance by evaluating their stoichiometry.-Kalpage, H. A., Bazylianska, V., Recanati, M. A., Fite, A., Liu, J., Wan, J., Mantena, N., Malek, M. H., Podgorski, I., Heath, E. I., Vaishnav, A., Edwards, B. F., Grossman, L. I., Sanderson, T. H., Lee, I., Hüttemann, M. Tissue-specific regulation of cytochrome c by post-translational modifications: respiration, the mitochondrial membrane potential, ROS, and apoptosis.
Keywords: electron transport chain; ischemia–reperfusion; phosphorylation; reactive oxygen species; signal transduction.