The temperature dependence of lipid-depleted beef heart cytochrome c oxidase activity was studied in a series of chemically homogeneous detergents. The detergents that were tested included C10 to C18 maltosides, C8 to C12 glucosides, C8 to C16 Zwittergents, and C12 poly(oxyethylene) ethers. The observed rates of electron transport were dependent upon the structure of the polar head group and the length of the hydrocarbon tail. Of the detergents tested, the alkyl maltosides were the best in terms of both high rates of electron transport and superior enzyme stability. With the maltosides, changing the length of the alkyl tail affected the activity of cytochrome c oxidase in a manner quite similar to that reported with synthetic phosphatidylcholines and phosphatidylethanolamines [Vik, S. B., & Capaldi, R. A. (1977) Biochemistry 16, 5755-5759], suggesting that the alkyl maltosides can mimic some of the features of the membrane environment. In each of the detergents, the activation enthalpy (determined from the slope of an Arrhenius plot) was nearly identical, suggesting that the same electron-transfer step within cytochrome c oxidase is rate limiting. This result has been interpreted as evidence for the existence of two or more conformers of cytochrome c oxidase, one of which is significantly more active than the other(s). The enzyme turnover number, which changes by 2 orders of magnitude depending upon the structure of the bound detergent, may reflect the ability of each detergent to alter the equilibrium between the active and nearly inactive conformers.
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