Journal of the American Chemical Society
Small diffusible redox proteins facilitate electron transfer in respiration and photosynthesis by alternately binding to their redox partners and integral membrane proteins and exchanging electrons. Diffusive search, recognition, binding, and unbinding of these proteins often amount to kinetic bottlenecks in cellular energy conversion, but despite the availability of structures and intense study, the physical mechanisms controlling redox partner interactions remain largely unknown. The present molecular dynamics study provides an all-atom description of the cytochrome c2-docked bc1 complex in Rhodobacter sphaeroides in terms of an ensemble of favorable docking conformations and reveals an intricate series of conformational changes that allow cytochrome c2 to recognize the bc1 complex and bind or unbind in a redox state-dependent manner. In particular, the role of electron transfer in triggering a molecular switch and in altering water-mediated interface mobility, thereby strengthening and weakening complex formation, is described. The results resolve long-standing discrepancies between structural and functional data.