Cytochrome c oxidase is the terminal enzyme of the respiratory chain of mitochondria and many aerobic bacteria. It catalyzes the transfer of electrons from reduced cytochrome c to molecular oxygen:
4 cytochrome c+2 + 4 H+ + O2 --> 4 cytochrome c+3 + 2 H2O
This reaction is coupled to the pumping of four additional protons across the mitochondrial or bacterial membrane [10563795, 16598262].
Cytochrome c oxidase is an oligomeric enzymatic complex that is located in the mitochondrial inner membrane of eukaryotes and in the plasma membrane of aerobic prokaryotes. The core structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cytochrome c oxidase contains three common subunits, I, II and III. In prokaryotes, subunits I and III can be fused and a fourth subunit is sometimes found, whereas in eukaryotes there are a variable number of additional small polypeptidic subunits . The functional role of subunit III is not yet understood.
As the bacterial respiratory systems are branched, they have a number of distinct terminal oxidases, rather than the single cytochrome c oxidase present in the eukaryotic mitochondrial systems. Although the cytochrome o oxidases do not catalyze the cytochrome c but the quinol (ubiquinol) oxidation they belong to the same haem-copper oxidase superfamily as cytochrome c oxidases. Members of this family share sequence similarities in all three core subunits: subunit I is the most conserved subunit, whereas subunit II is the least conserved [1316894, 2162835, 8083153].