Analysis of the control of respiration rate, phosphorylation rate, proton leak rate and protonmotive force in isolated mitochondria using the ‘top-down’ approach of metabolic control theory


Correspondence to R. P. Hafner, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QW, England


The rate of respiration of isolated mitochondria was set at different values by addition of either oligomycin or an ADP-regenerating system (glucose and different amounts of hexokinase). We measured the relationship between respiration rate and membrane potential as respiration was titrated by the addition of malonate under each condition. We used the flux control summation and connectivity theorems and the branching theorem of metabolic control theory to calculate the control over respiration rate exerted by the respiratory chain (and associated reactions), phosphorylating system (and associated reactions) and proton leak at each respiration rate. The analysis also yielded the flux control coefficients of these three reactions over phosphorylation rate and proton leak rate and their concentration control coefficients over protonmotive force. We found that respiration rate was controlled largely by the proton leak under non-phosphorylating conditions, by the phosphorylating system at intermediate rates and by both the phosphorylating system and the respiratory chain in state 3. The rate of phosphorylation was controlled largely by the phosphorylating system itself in state 4 and at intermediate rates, while state 3 control was shared between the phosphorylating system and the respiratory chain; the proton leak had insignificant control. In all states the phosphorylating system had large negative control over the proton leak; the chain and the proton leak both had large positive control coefficients. The protonmotive force was controlled by the chain and by the phosphorylating system; the proton leak had little control.