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Nitrous oxide reductase (N2OR) catalyses the final step of bacterial denitrification, the two-electron reduction of nitrous oxide (N2O) to dinitrogen (N2). N2OR contains two metal centers; a binuclear copper center, CuA, that serves to receive electrons from soluble donors, and a tetranuclear copper-sulfide center, CuZ, at the active site. Stopped flow experiments at low ionic strengths reveal rapid electron transfer (kobs=150 s-1) between reduced horse heart (HH) cytochrome c and the CuA center in fully oxidized N2OR. When fully reduced N2OR was mixed with oxidized cytochrome c, a similar rate of electron transfer was recorded for the reverse reaction, followed by a much slower internal electron transfer from CuZ to CuA(kobs=0.1-0.4 s-1). The internal electron transfer process is likely to represent the rate-determining step in the catalytic cycle. Remarkably, in the absence of cytochrome c, fully reduced N2OR is inert towards its substrate, even though sufficient electrons are stored to initiate a single turnover. However, in the presence of reduced cytochrome c and N2O, a single turnover occurs after a lag-phase. We propose that a conformational change in N2OR is induced by its specific interaction with cytochrome c that in turn either permits electron transfer between CuA and CuZ or controls the rate of N2O decomposition at the active site.

Original publication




Journal article


Dalton Trans

Publication Date



3501 - 3506


Animals, Cytochromes c, Electrons, Horses, Models, Molecular, Nitrous Oxide, Oxidation-Reduction, Oxidoreductases, Paracoccus pantotrophus, Protein Binding, Protein Structure, Tertiary