The cytochrome bc1 complex of the mitochondrial electron transport chain accomplishes the enzymatic reaction known as the modified Q-cycle. In the Q-cycle the bc1 complex transports protons from the matrix to the intermembrane space of the mitochondria, creating the proton gradient used to make ATP. The energy to move these protons is obtained by shuttling electrons from the coenzyme ubiquinol (QH2) to coenzyme ubiquinone (Q) and the mobile cytochrome c. This well studied complex is ideal for examining molecular adaptation because it consists of ten different subunits, it functions as a dimer, and it includes at least five different active sites. The program TreeSAAP was used to characterize molecular adaptation in the bc1 complex and identify specific amino acid sites that experienced positive destabilizing (radical) selection. Using this information and three-dimensional structures of the protein complex, selection was characterized in terms of coevolution and coadaptation. Coevolution is described as reciprocal local biochemical shifts based on phylogenetic location and results in overall maintenance. Coadaptation, on the other hand, is more dynamic and is described as coordinated local biochemical shifts based on phylogenetic location which results in overall adaptation. In this study both coevolution and coadaptation were identified in various locations on the protein complex near the active sites. Sites in the pore region of cyt c1 were shown to exhibit coevolution, in other words maintenance, of many biochemical properties, whereas sites on helix H of cyt b, which flanks the active sites Qo and Qi, were shown to exhibit coadaptation, in other words coordinated shifts in the specific properties equilibrium constant and solvent accessible reduction ratio. Also, different domains of the protein exhibited significant shifts in drastically different amino acid properties: the protein imbedded in the membrane demonstrated shifts in mainly functional properties, while the part of the complex in the intermembrane space demonstrated shifts in conformational, structural, and energetic properties.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Biology



Date Submitted


Document Type





cytochrome bc1 complex, protein coadaptation, protein coevolution, cytochrome b, cytochrome c1, rieske iron sulfur protein, coenzyme q, TreeSAAP, physicochemical amino acid properties, biochemical adaptation



Included in

Biology Commons