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FEBS Lett. 2001 Aug 31;504(3):152-60.

Inter-subunit rotation and elastic power transmission in F0F1-ATPase.

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Division of Biophysics, University of Osnabrück, D-49069, Osnabrück, Germany.


ATP synthase (F-ATPase) produces ATP at the expense of ion-motive force or vice versa. It is composed from two motor/generators, the ATPase (F1) and the ion translocator (F0), which both are rotary steppers. They are mechanically coupled by 360 degrees rotary motion of subunits against each other. The rotor, subunits gamma(epsilon)C10-14, moves against the stator, (alphabeta)3delta(ab2). The enzyme copes with symmetry mismatch (C3 versus C10-14) between its two motors, and it operates robustly in chimeric constructs or with drastically modified subunits. We scrutinized whether an elastic power transmission accounts for these properties. We used the curvature of fluorescent actin filaments, attached to the rotating c ring, as a spring balance (flexural rigidity of 8.10(-26) N x m2) to gauge the angular profile of the output torque at F0 during ATP hydrolysis by F1. The large average output torque (56 pN nm) proved the absence of any slip. Angular variations of the torque were small, so that the output free energy of the loaded enzyme decayed almost linearly over the angular reaction coordinate. Considering the three-fold stepping and high activation barrier (>40 kJ/mol) of the driving motor (F1) itself, the rather constant output torque seen by F0 implied a soft elastic power transmission between F1 and F0. It is considered as essential, not only for the robust operation of this ubiquitous enzyme under symmetry mismatch, but also for a high turnover rate under load of the two counteracting and stepping motors/generators.

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