Ubiquinone (UQ), also known as coenzyme Q (CoQ), is a redox-active lipid present in all cellular membranes where it functions in a variety of cellular processes. The best known functions of UQ are to act as a mobile electron carrier in the mitochondrial respiratory chain and to serve as a lipid soluble antioxidant in cellular membranes. All eukaryotic cells synthesize their own UQ. Most of the current knowledge on the UQ biosynthetic pathway was obtained by studying Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae UQ-deficient mutants. The orthologues of all the genes known from yeast studies to be involved in UQ biosynthesis have subsequently been found in higher organisms. Animal mutants with different genetic defects in UQ biosynthesis display very different phenotypes, despite the fact that in all these mutants the same biosynthetic pathway is affected. This review summarizes the present knowledge of the eukaryotic biosynthesis of UQ, with focus on the biosynthetic genes identified in animals, including Caenorhabditis elegans, rodents, and humans. Moreover, we review the phenotypes of mutants in these genes and discuss the functional consequences of UQ deficiency in general.
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