The chemistry of disulfide exchange in biological systems is well studied. However, the detailed mechanism of how oxidizing equivalents are derived to form disulfide bonds in proteins is not clear. In prokaryotic organisms, it is known that DsbB delivers oxidizing equivalents through DsbA to secreted proteins. DsbB becomes reoxidized by reducing quinones that are part of the membrane-bound electron-transfer chains. It is this quinone reductase activity that links disulfide bond formation to the electron transport system. We show here that purified DsbB contains the spectral signal of a quinhydrone, a charge–transfer complex consisting of a hydroquinone and a quinone in a stacked configuration. We conclude that disulfide bond formation involves a stacked hydroquinone–benzoquinone pair that can be trapped on DsbB as a quinhydrone charge–transfer complex. Quinhydrones are known to be redox-active and are commonly used as redox standards, but, to our knowledge, have never before been directly observed in biological systems. We also show kinetically that this quinhydrone-type charge–transfer complex undergoes redox reactions consistent with its being an intermediate in the reaction mechanism of DsbB. We propose a simple model for the action of DsbB where a quinhydrone-like complex plays a crucial role as a reaction intermediate
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