Cytochrome c oxidase (CcO) reduces dioxygen to water and harnesses the chemical energy to drive proton translocation across the inner mitochondrial membrane by an unresolved mechanism. By using time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography, we identified a key oxygen intermediate of bovine CcO. It is assigned to the PR-intermediate, which is characterized by specific redox states of the metal centers and a distinct protein conformation. The heme a 3 iron atom is in a ferryl (Fe4+ = O2-) configuration, and heme a and CuB are oxidized while CuA is reduced. A Helix-X segment is poised in an open conformational state; the heme a farnesyl sidechain is H-bonded to S382, and loop-I-II adopts a distinct structure. These data offer insights into the mechanism by which the oxygen chemistry is coupled to unidirectional proton translocation.
Keywords: X-ray free electron laser; bioenergetics; catalytic intermediates; complex IV; crystallography.