Coenzyme Q (ubiquinone or Q) is a redox active lipid composed of a fully substituted benzoquinone ring and a polyisoprenoid tail of n isoprene units. Saccharomyces cerevisiae coq1-coq9 mutants have defects in Q biosynthesis, lack Q, are respiratory defective, and sensitive to stress imposed by polyunsaturated fatty acids. The hallmark phenotype of the Q-less yeast coq mutants is that respiration in isolated mitochondria can be rescued by the addition of Q, a soluble Q analog. Yeast coq10 mutants share each of these phenotypes, with the surprising exception that they continue to produce Q. Structure determination of the Caulobacter crescentus Coq10 homolog (CC1736) revealed a steroidogenic acute regulatory protein-related lipid transfer (START) domain, a hydrophobic tunnel known to bind specific lipids in other START domain family members. Here we show that purified CC1736 binds Q, Q, Q, or demethoxy-Q in an equimolar ratio, but fails to bind 3-farnesyl-4-hydroxybenzoic acid, a farnesylated analog of an early Q-intermediate. Over-expression of C. crescentus CC1736 or COQ8 restores respiratory electron transport and antioxidant function of Q in the yeast coq10 null mutant. Studies with stable isotope ring precursors of Q reveal that early Q-biosynthetic intermediates accumulate in the coq10 mutant and de novo Q-biosynthesis is less efficient than in the wild-type yeast or rescued coq10 mutant. The results suggest that the Coq10 polypeptide:Q (protein:ligand) complex may serve essential functions in facilitating de novo Q biosynthesis and in delivering newly synthesized Q to one or more complexes of the respiratory electron transport chain.
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