A minimal hypothesis for membrane-linked free-energy transduction. The role of independent, small coupling units

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1984 Dec 17;768(3-4):257-92. doi: 10.1016/0304-4173(84)90019-3.


Experimental data are reviewed that are not in keeping with the scheme of 'delocalized' protonic coupling in membrane-linked free-energy transduction. It turns out that there are three main types of anomalies: (i) rates of electron transfer and of ATP synthesis do not solely depend on their own driving force and on delta mu H, (ii) the ('static head') ratio of delta Gp to delta mu H varies with delta mu H and (iii) inhibition of either some of the electron-transfer chains or some of the H+-ATPases, does not cause an overcapacity in the other, non-inhibited proton pumps. None of the earlier free-energy coupling schemes, alternative to delocalized protonic coupling, can account for these three anomalies. We propose to add a fifth postulate, namely that of the coupling unit, to the four existing postulates of 'delocalized protonic coupling' and show that, with this postulate, protonic coupling can again account for most experimental observations. We also discuss: (i) how experimental data that might seem to be at odds with the 'coupling unit' hypothesis can be accounted for and (ii) the problem of the spatial arrangement of the electrical field in the different free-energy coupling schemes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP Synthetase Complexes
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Electron Transport
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Membranes / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Phosphotransferases / metabolism*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Phosphotransferases
  • ATP Synthetase Complexes