A computer modeling system developed to analyze experimental data for inactivation of the Escherichia coli alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase complex (KGDC) accompanying release of lipoyl moieties by lipoamidase and by trypsin [Hackert, M.L., Oliver, R.M. & Reed, L.J. (1983) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 80, 2226-2230] was used to analyze analogous data for the E. coli pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC). The model studies indicate that the activity of PDC, as found for KGDC, is influenced by redundancies and random processes, which we describe as a multiple random coupling mechanism. In both complexes more than one lipoyl moiety services each pyruvate dehydrogenase (EC 188.8.131.52) or alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase (EC 184.108.40.206) (E1) subunit, and an extensive lipoyl-lipoyl interaction network for exchange of electrons and possibly acyl groups must also be present. The best fit between computed and experimental data for PDC was obtained with a model that has four lipoyl domains with four or, more probably, eight lipoyl moieties servicing each E1 subunit. The lipoyl-lipoyl interaction network for PDC has lipoyl domain interactions similar to those found for KGDC plus the additional possibility of interaction of a lipoyl moiety and its paired mate on each dihydrolipoamide acetyltransferase (EC 220.127.116.11) (E2) subunit. The two lipoyl moieties on an E2 subunit in PDC appear to be functionally indistinguishable, each servicing the acetyltransferase site of that E2 subunit and a dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase (EC 18.104.22.168) (E3) subunit if the latter is bound to that particular E2 subunit. The observed difference between inactivation of PDC by lipoamidase and by trypsin appears to be due to dead-end competitive inhibition by lipoyl domains that have been modified by excision of lipoyl moieties by lipoamidase.