Structural basis for safe and efficient energy conversion in a respiratory supercomplex

Nat Commun. 2022 Jan 27;13(1):545. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-28179-x.


Proton-translocating respiratory complexes assemble into supercomplexes that are proposed to increase the efficiency of energy conversion and limit the production of harmful reactive oxygen species during aerobic cellular respiration. Cytochrome bc complexes and cytochrome aa3 oxidases are major drivers of the proton motive force that fuels ATP generation via respiration, but how wasteful electron- and proton transfer is controlled to enhance safety and efficiency in the context of supercomplexes is not known. Here, we address this question with the 2.8 Å resolution cryo-EM structure of the cytochrome bcc-aa3 (III2-IV2) supercomplex from the actinobacterium Corynebacterium glutamicum. Menaquinone, substrate mimics, lycopene, an unexpected Qc site, dioxygen, proton transfer routes, and conformational states of key protonable residues are resolved. Our results show how safe and efficient energy conversion is achieved in a respiratory supercomplex through controlled electron and proton transfer. The structure may guide the rational design of drugs against actinobacteria that cause diphtheria and tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria / metabolism*
  • Benzoquinones / chemistry
  • Binding Sites
  • Corynebacterium glutamicum / metabolism*
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Cytochromes / chemistry*
  • Cytochromes / metabolism*
  • Electron Transport Complex III / chemistry
  • Electron Transport Complex III / metabolism
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / chemistry
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Proton-Motive Force


  • Benzoquinones
  • Cytochromes
  • quinone
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Electron Transport Complex IV
  • Electron Transport Complex III
  • Oxygen