The nature of the copper atoms of cytochrome c oxidase as studied by optical and X-ray absorption edge spectroscopy

L. Powers, W. E. Blumberg, Britton Chance, Clyde H. Barlow, J. S. Leigh, Jerry Smith, Takashi Yonetani, Steven Vik, Jack Peisach

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70 Scopus citations


X-ray absorption edge spectroscopy has been used to study the copper of 1-2 mM cytochrome c oxidase in the resting oxidized, mixed-valence, and fully reduced states. A comparison was made of this protein with copper complexes and with natural and artificial copper proteins. Spectra were obtained with synchrotron radiation from the SPEAR storage ring using highly sensitive fluorescence detectors. Temperatures of -80 to -120°C were employed further to improve the stability of the samples and to avoid the possibility of either auto- or photon-induced reduction of the materials, which might have occurred in previous studies. In order to characterize the valence states of the Cu and Fe components, the samples were monitored by infrared and visible spectroscopy before and after irradiation by the X-ray beam. The combination of the optical and X-ray absorption techniques has afforded a deconvolution of the four species of copper in the various states of cytochrome c oxidase and the tentative assignment of Cua, the copper redox coupled to the heme a of cytochrome a, as a highly covalent type of copper and Cua3, the copper of cytochrome a3, as a more ionic 'blue' type I copper. The implications of these findings upon the mechanism of action of cytochrome oxidase are briefly outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-538
Number of pages19
JournalBBA - Bioenergetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 5 1979


  • Copper
  • Cytochrome c oxidase
  • X-ray absorption edge spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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