Detergent-solubilized bovine heart cytochrome c oxidase requires 2 mol of tightly bound cardiolipin (CL) per mole of monomeric complex for functional activity. Four lines of evidence support this conclusion: (1) Phospholipid depletion shows that two tightly bound CL's must remain associated with cytochrome c oxidase in order to maintain full electron transport activity. (2) Removal of the two tightly bound CL's correlates with decreased activity that is restored by reassociation of 2 mol of exogenous CL. (3) CL-depleted cytochrome c oxidase has two high-affinity binding sites for 2-[14C]acetylcardiolipin (AcCL), Kd,app < 0.1 μM, that are not present in enzyme containing endogenous CL. An additional 2–3 lower affinity AcCL binding sites, Kd,app = 4 μM, are present in the CL-depleted complex, but these sites are also present in enzyme containing endogenous CL. (4) CL, monolysocardiolipin (MLCL), and dilysocardiolipin (DLCL) compete for AcCL binding with approximately the same relative affinities as those measured by the restoration of electron transport activity (MLCL competes much better than DLCL). However, MLCL and DLCL are only 60% and 15% as effective as CL in restoring maximum activity when they are bound to the high-affinity sites. The binding specificity of CL, MLCL, DLCL, and some of their acylated derivatives indicates that the apolar tails are most important for binding, not the polar head group. The presence or absence of hydroxyl groups in CL, MLCL, or DLCL also has little effect upon binding affinities. Binding specificity clearly favors CL since phosphatidylglycerol, phosphatidic acid, and phosphatidylcholine each have very low affinity for the CL binding sites (Kd,app > 20 μM). We, therefore, conclude that restoration of activity to CL-depleted cytochrome c oxidase is highly specific and requires the reassociation of CL, or structurally similar compounds, with two high-affinity binding sites.
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