Mike Eades sent me this paper:
Reactive oxygen species are generated by the respiratory complex II – evidence for lack of contribution of the reverse electron ﬂow in
suggesting that RET through complex I, when driven by succinate oxidation at complex II, is a pure artefact of the pathologically high level of succinate used in the mitochondrial preparations involved. Bearing in mind that trying to work out exactly what the physiological concentration of succinate might be, in the region of the active site of a complex II in a working, oscillating, in-situ mitochondrion, involves an awful lot of guesswork.
However, the paper might well to be correct, within the limitations of the mitochondrial preparations they are using.
If you feed mitochondria with 5.0mmol/l succinate there is profuse ROS generation, 85% of which can be blocked by rotenone, ie this 85% is RET generated. The other 15% comes from other places, including complexes II and III, at least. But if you feed mitochondria with 0.5mmol/l succinate, or even 1.0mmol/l, there is no ROS generation at all. The case is made that ROS from RET are not a feature of "normal" levels of succinate driving the reduction of the CoQ couple.
But this is a mitochondrial preparation. It has no cytoplasm, no glycolytic enzymes, no source of glycerol-3-phosphate, no FFAs, no carnitine. You can't buy a vial of FADH2 bound to electron transferring flavoprotein to feed in at ETFdh. This makes manipulating the CoQ couple in a way which is physiologically significant very difficult. In the current study we have no input to the CoQ couple other than complex II using succinate.
Those folks like myself, who feel that the redox state of the CoQ couple is the main sensor of the energy status of the cell, would never expect a single input in to the CoQ couple to be the sole representative of energy status. Even during glycolysis there is some fatty acid oxidation providing electron transferring flavoprotein to ETFdh. And succinate from FFA derived acetyl-CoA will also supply to complex II during lipid oxidation. And conversely some glycolysis will occur, even when FFA oxidation predominates, supplying glycerol-3-phosphate to mtG3Pdh.
Until we can set preparations up in which these inputs can be adjusted we are not able to say much about what might be happening in-vivo to RET. And once you start smashing the mitochondria to pieces and reassembling them as inside-out vesicles (so you can supply metabolites to the intra-mitochondria binding sites that would normally be hidden away from your extra-mitochondrial culture fluid) you are a very, very long way from in-vivo indeed.