A wide variety of alkyl derivatives of Q2 (6-geranyl-2, 3-dimethoxy-5-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone) and DB (6-n-decyl-2, 3-dimethoxy-5-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone), in which methoxy groups of the 2- and/or 3-positions of the quinone ring were replaced by other bulky alkoxy groups from ethoxy to butoxy, were prepared by novel synthetic procedures. Electron-accepting activities of the bulky quinones were investigated with bovine heart mitochondrial complex I and its counterpart of Paracoccus denitrificans(NDH-1) to elucidate structural and functional features of the quinone reduction site of the enzymes. The bulky quinone analogues served as sufficient electron acceptors from the physiological quinone reduction site of bovine complex I. Considering the very poor activities of even the ethoxy derivatives as substrates for other respiratory enzymes such as mitochondrial complexes II and III [He, D. Y., Gu, L. Q., Yu, L., and Yu, C. A. (1994) Biochemistry 33, 880-884], this result indicated that the quinone reduction site of bovine complex I is spacious enough to accommodate bulky exogenous substrates. In contrast to bovine complex I, bulky quinone analogues served as poor electron acceptors with Paracoccus NDH-1. These observations indicated that bovine complex I recognizes the substrate structure with poor specificity. The substituent effects in the 2- and 3-positions of the quinone ring on the electron-transfer activity with bovine complex I differed significantly between Q2 and DB series despite having the same total number of carbon atoms in the side chain. The inhibitory effect involving Q2 due to its geranyl side chain was markedly diminished by structural modifications of the quinone ring moiety. These findings indicate that the side chain plays a specific role in the redox reaction and that the quinone ring and side-chain moieties contribute interdependently to binding interaction. Moreover, structural dependency of the proton-pumping activity of the quinone analogues was comparable to that of the electron-transfer activity with bovine complex I, indicating that the mechanism of redox-driven proton-pumping does not differ depending upon the substrate structure.