Succinate:quinone oxidoreductase (SQR) functions in energy metabolism, coupling the tricarboxylic acid cycle and electron transport chain in bacteria and mitochondria. The biogenesis of flavinylated SdhA, the catalytic subunit of SQR, is assisted by a highly conserved assembly factor termed SdhE in bacteria via an unknown mechanism. By using X-ray crystallography, we have solved the structure of
Escherichia coliSdhE in complex with SdhA to 2.15-Å resolution. Our structure shows that SdhE makes a direct interaction with the flavin adenine dinucleotide-linked residue His45 in SdhA and maintains the capping domain of SdhA in an “open” conformation. This displaces the catalytic residues of the succinate dehydrogenase active site by as much as 9.0 Å compared with SdhA in the assembled SQR complex. These data suggest that bacterial SdhE proteins, and their mitochondrial homologs, are assembly chaperones that constrain the conformation of SdhA to facilitate efficient flavinylation while regulating succinate dehydrogenase activity for productive biogenesis of SQR.