• Open Access

Low complex I content explains the low hydrogen peroxide production rate of heart mitochondria from the long-lived pigeon, Columba livia


Martin Brand, Buck Institute for Age Research, 8001 Redwood Blvd, Novato, CA 94945, USA. Tel.: +1 (415) 493-3676; fax: +1 (415) 209-2232; e-mail:mbrand@buckinstitute.org


Across a range of vertebrate species, it is known that there is a negative association between maximum lifespan and mitochondrial hydrogen peroxide production. In this report, we investigate the underlying biochemical basis of the low hydrogen peroxide production rate of heart mitochondria from a long-lived species (pigeon) compared with a short-lived species with similar body mass (rat). The difference in hydrogen peroxide efflux rate was not explained by differences in either superoxide dismutase activity or hydrogen peroxide removal capacity. During succinate oxidation, the difference in hydrogen peroxide production rate between the species was localized to the ΔpH-sensitive superoxide producing site within complex I. Mitochondrial ΔpH was significantly lower in pigeon mitochondria compared with rat, but this difference in ΔpH was not great enough to explain the lower hydrogen peroxide production rate. As judged by mitochondrial flavin mononucleotide content and blue native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, pigeon mitochondria contained less complex I than rat mitochondria. Recalculation revealed that the rates of hydrogen peroxide production per molecule of complex I were the same in rat and pigeon. We conclude that mitochondria from the long-lived pigeon display low rates of hydrogen peroxide production because they have low levels of complex I.