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J Biol Chem. 2001 Apr 13;276(15):12362-8. Epub 2001 Jan 9.

Demonstration of conformational changes associated with activation of the maltose transport complex.

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Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


In Escherichia coli, interaction of a periplasmic maltose-binding protein with a membrane-associated ATP-binding cassette transporter stimulates ATP hydrolysis, resulting in translocation of maltose into the cell. The maltose transporter contains two transmembrane subunits, MalF and MalG, and two copies of a nucleotide-hydrolyzing subunit, MalK. Mutant transport complexes that function in the absence of binding protein are thought to be stabilized in an ATPase-active conformation. To probe the conformation of the nucleotide-binding site and to gain an understanding of the nature of the conformational changes that lead to activation, cysteine 40 within the Walker A motif of the MalK subunit was modified by the fluorophore 2-(4'-maleimidoanilino)naphthalene-6-sulfonic acid. Fluorescence differences indicated that residues involved in nucleotide binding were less accessible to aqueous solvent in the binding protein independent transporter than in the wild-type transporter. Similar differences in fluorescence were seen when a vanadate-trapped transition state conformation was compared with the ground state in the wild-type transporter. Our results and recent crystal structures are consistent with a model in which activation of ATPase activity is associated with conformational changes that bring the two MalK subunits closer together, completing the nucleotide-binding sites and burying ATP in the interface.

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