Solution of the Problem of Energy Coupling in Terms of Chemiosmotic Theory

  • V. P. Skulachev


The present state of the chemiosmotic hypothesis of oxidative phosphorylation is considered. It is pointed out that the available data testify to the validity of the following postulates of this hypothesis:
  1. (1)

    Energization of coupling membranes results in formation of a transmembrane electric potential and/or a pH difference whose values prove to be of the same order of magnitude as standard free energy of ATP hydrolysis.

  2. (2)

    The redox chain can generate a membrane potential independently of whether or not high-energy intermediates are formed.

  3. (3)

    ATPase can generate a membrane potential independently of whether or not mechanisms of electron transfer via coupling sites are operative.

  4. (4)

    Energy accumulated in the form of transmembrane electric and osmotic gradients can be utilized for ATP synthesis (“ion transfer phosphorylation”).


The observations summarized in these items are sufficient to conclude that electron transfer and phosphorylation can be coupled by a membrane potential, as was postulated by the chemiosmotic theory.

It is noted that a number of consequences of Mitchell’s principle of energy coupling are also experimentally proved. It was shown, in particular, that
  1. (a)

    an increase in electric conductance and ion permeability, initially very low for coupling membranes, results in uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation;

  2. (b)

    electron (hydrogen) transfer in some segment (s) of the respiratory chain is directed across the membrane;

  3. (c)

    energy-linked transhydrogenase represents reverse electron transfer via the additional (fourth) site of the redox chain energy coupling, etc.


Thus, chemiosmotic theory of oxidative phosphorylation seems to be acceptable as working hypothesis for the further study of the mechanism of oxidative phosphorylation.


Membrane Potential Energy Coupling Proton Motive Force Reverse Electron Transfer Coupling Site 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Company Limited 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. P. Skulachev
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Bioenergetics, Laboratory of Bioorganic ChemistryMoscow State UniversityMoscowUSSR

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