Respiratory complex I plays a central role in cellular energy production in bacteria and mitochondria. Its dysfunction is implicated in many human neurodegenerative diseases, as well as in aging. The crystal structure of the hydrophilic domain (peripheral arm) of complex I from Thermus thermophilus has been solved at 3.3 angstrom resolution. This subcomplex consists of eight subunits and contains all the redox centers of the enzyme, including nine iron-sulfur clusters. The primary electron acceptor, flavin-mononucleotide, is within electron transfer distance of cluster N3, leading to the main redox pathway, and of the distal cluster N1a, a possible antioxidant. The structure reveals new aspects of the mechanism and evolution of the enzyme. The terminal cluster N2 is coordinated, uniquely, by two consecutive cysteines. The novel subunit Nqo15 has a similar fold to the mitochondrial iron chaperone frataxin, and it may be involved in iron-sulfur cluster regeneration in the complex.
The hydrophilic domain (peripheral arm) of the proton-translocating NADH:quinone oxidoreductase (complex I) from the thermophilic organism Thermus thermophilus HB8 has been purified and characterized. The subcomplex is stable in sodium dodecyl sulfate up to 80 degrees C. Of nine iron-sulfur clusters, four to five (one or two binuclear and three tetranuclear) could be detected by EPR in the NADH-reduced enzyme. The preparation consists of eight different polypeptides. Seven of them have been positively identified by peptide mass mapping and N-terminal sequencing as known hydrophilic subunits of T. thermophilus complex I. The eighth polypeptide copurified with the subcomplex at all stages, is strongly associated with the other subunits, and is present in crystals of the subcomplex, used for X-ray data collection. Therefore, it has been identified as a novel complex I subunit and named Nqo15. It is encoded in a locus separate from the nqo operon, containing the 14 other known complex I genes. ORFs encoding Nqo15 homologues are present in the genomes of the closest relatives of T. thermophilus. Our data show that, contrary to previous assumptions, bacterial complex I can contain proteins in addition to a "core" complement of 14 subunits.