The electron transport chain in anaerobically functioning eukaryotes

Aloysius G.M. Tielens*, Jaap J. Van Hellemond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

124 Citations (Scopus)


Many lower eukaryotes can survive anaerobic conditions via a fermentation pathway that involves the use of the reduction of endogenously produced fumarate as electron sink. This fumarate reduction is linked to electron transport in an especially adapted, anaerobically functioning electron-transport chain. An aerobic energy metabolism with Krebs cycle activity is accompanied by electron transfer from succinate to ubiquinone via complex II of the respiratory chain. On the other hand, in an anaerobic metabolism, where fumarate functions as terminal electron acceptor, electrons are transferred from rhodoquinone to fumarate, which is the reversed direction. Ubiquinone cannot replace rhodoquinone in the process of fumarate reduction in vivo, as ubiquinone can only accept electrons from complex II and cannot donate them to fumarate. Rhodoquinone, with its lower redox potential than ubiquinone, is capable of donating electrons to fumarate. Eukaryotic fumarate reductases were shown to interact with rhodoquinone (a benzoquinone), whereas most prokaryotic fumarate reductases interact with the naphtoquinones menaquinone and demethylmenaquinone. Fumarate reductase, the enzyme essential for the anaerobic functioning of many eukaryotes, is structurally very similar to succinate dehydrogenase, the Krebs cycle enzyme catalysing the reverse reaction. In prokaryotes these enzymes are differentially expressed depending on the external conditions. Evidence is now emerging that also in eukaryotes two different enzymes exist for succinate oxidation and fumarate reduction that are differentially expressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 1998
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research in the authors' laboratory was supported by the Netherlands Foundation for Chemical research (SON) and the Netherlands Life Science Foundation (SLW) with financial aid from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).


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