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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jun 18;279(25):26546-54. Epub 2004 Mar 15.

Replacement of amino acid sequence features of a- and c-subunits of ATP synthases of Alkaliphilic Bacillus with the Bacillus consensus sequence results in defective oxidative phosphorylation and non-fermentative growth at pH 10.5.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


Mitchell's (Mitchell, P. (1961) Nature 191, 144-148) chemiosmotic model of energy coupling posits a bulk electrochemical proton gradient (Deltap) as the sole driving force for proton-coupled ATP synthesis via oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and for other bioenergetic work. Two properties of proton-coupled OXPHOS by alkaliphilic Bacillus species pose a challenge to this tenet: robust ATP synthesis at pH 10.5 that does not correlate with the magnitude of the Deltap and the failure of artificially imposed potentials to substitute for respiration-generated potentials in energizing ATP synthesis at high pH (Krulwich, T. (1995) Mol. Microbiol. 15, 403-410). Here we show that these properties, in alkaliphilic Bacillus pseudofirmus OF4, depend upon alkaliphile-specific features in the proton pathway through the a- and c-subunits of ATP synthase. Site-directed changes were made in six such features to the corresponding sequence in Bacillus megaterium, which reflects the consensus sequence for non-alkaliphilic Bacillus. Five of the six single mutants assembled an active ATPase/ATP synthase, and four of these mutants exhibited a specific defect in non-fermentative growth at high pH. Most of these mutants lost the ability to generate the high phosphorylation potentials at low bulk Deltap that are characteristic of alkaliphiles. The aLys(180) and aGly(212) residues that are predicted to be in the proton uptake pathway of the a-subunit were specifically implicated in pH-dependent restriction of proton flux through the ATP synthase to and from the bulk phase. The evidence included greatly enhanced ATP synthesis in response to an artificially imposed potential at high pH. The findings demonstrate that the ATP synthase of extreme alkaliphiles has special features that are required for non-fermentative growth and OXPHOS at high pH.

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