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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Oct 11;1565(2):232-45.

Structural model of the transmembrane Fo rotary sector of H+-transporting ATP synthase derived by solution NMR and intersubunit cross-linking in situ.

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Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, University of Wisconsin Medical School, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706-1532, USA.


H(+)-transporting, F(1)F(o)-type ATP synthases utilize a transmembrane H(+) potential to drive ATP formation by a rotary catalytic mechanism. ATP is formed in alternating beta subunits of the extramembranous F(1) sector of the enzyme, synthesis being driven by rotation of the gamma subunit in the center of the F(1) molecule between the alternating catalytic sites. The H(+) electrochemical potential is thought to drive gamma subunit rotation by first coupling H(+) transport to rotation of an oligomeric rotor of c subunits within the transmembrane F(o) sector. The gamma subunit is forced to turn with the c-oligomeric rotor due to connections between subunit c and the gamma and epsilon subunits of F(1). In this essay we will review recent studies on the Escherichia coli F(o) sector. The monomeric structure of subunit c, determined by NMR, shows that subunit c folds in a helical hairpin with the proton carrying Asp(61) centered in the second transmembrane helix (TMH). A model for the structural organization of the c(10) oligomer in F(o) was deduced from extensive cross-linking studies and by molecular modeling. The model indicates that the H(+)-carrying carboxyl of subunit c is occluded between neighboring subunits of the c(10) oligomer and that two c subunits pack in a "front-to-back" manner to form the H(+) (cation) binding site. In order for protons to gain access to Asp(61) during the protonation/deprotonation cycle, we propose that the outer, Asp(61)-bearing TMH-2s of the c-ring and TMHs from subunits composing the inlet and outlet channels must turn relative to each other, and that the swiveling motion associated with Asp(61) protonation/deprotonation drives the rotation of the c-ring. The NMR structures of wild-type subunit c differs according to the protonation state of Asp(61). The idea that the conformational state of subunit c changes during the catalytic cycle is supported by the cross-linking evidence in situ, and two recent NMR structures of functional mutant proteins in which critical residues have been switched between TMH-1 and TMH-2. The structural information is considered in the context of the possible mechanism of rotary movement of the c(10) oligomer during coupled synthesis of ATP.

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