Cytochrome b is a pivotal protein subunit of the cytochrome bc(1) complex and forms the ubiquinol oxidation site in the enzyme that is generally thought to be the primary site where electrons are aberrantly diverted from the enzyme, reacting with oxygen to form superoxide anion. In addition, recent studies have shown that mutations in cytochrome b can substantially increase rates of oxygen radical formation by the bc(1) complex. It would, thus, be advantageous to be able to manipulate cytochrome b by mutagenesis of the cytochrome b gene to better understand the role of cytochrome b in oxygen radical formation. Cytochrome b is encoded in the mitochondrial genome in eukaryotic cells, and introduction of point mutations into the gene is generally cumbersome because of the tedious screening process for positive clones. In addition, previously it has been especially difficult to introduce point mutations that lead to loss of respiratory function, as might be expected of mutations that markedly enhance oxygen radical formation. To more efficiently introduce amino acid changes into cytochrome b we have devised a method for mutagenesis of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondrial cytochrome b gene that uses a recoded ARG8 gene as a "placeholder" for the wild-type b gene. In this method ARG8, a gene that is normally encoded by nuclear DNA, replaces the naturally occurring mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, resulting in ARG8 expressed from the mitochondrial genome (ARG8(m)). Subsequently replacing ARG8(m) with mutated versions of cytochrome b results in arginine auxotrophy. Respiratory-competent cytochrome b mutants can be selected directly by virtue of their ability to restore growth on nonfermentable substrates. If the mutated cytochrome b is nonfunctional, the presence of the COX2 respiratory gene marker on the mitochondrial transforming plasmid enables screening for cytochrome b mutants with a stringent respiratory deficiency (mit(-)).
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