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Biochemistry. 2007 May 29;46(21):6183-93. Epub 2007 May 4.

Assembly pathway of an AAA+ protein: tracking ClpA and ClpAP complex formation in real time.

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Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, ETH Zürich, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland.


The ClpAP chaperone-protease complex is active as a cylindrically shaped oligomeric complex built of the proteolytic ClpP double ring as the core of the complex and two ClpA hexamers associating with the ends of the core cylinder. The ClpA chaperone belongs to the larger family of AAA+ ATPases and is responsible for preparing protein substrates for degradation by ClpP. Here, we study in real time using fluorescence and light scattering stopped-flow methods the complete assembly pathway of this bacterial chaperone-protease complex consisting of ATP-induced ClpA hexamer formation and the subsequent association of ClpA hexamers with the ClpP core cylinder. We provide evidence that ClpA assembles into hexamers via a tetrameric intermediate and that hexamerization coincides with the appearance of ATPase activity. While ATP-induced oligomerization of ClpA is a prerequisite for binding of ClpA to ClpP, the kinetics of ClpA hexamer formation are not influenced by the presence of ClpP. Models for ClpA hexamerization and ClpA-ClpP association are presented along with rate parameters obtained from numerical fitting procedures. The hexamerization kinetics show that the tetrameric intermediate transiently accumulates, forming rapidly at early time points and then decaying at a slower rate to generate the hexamer. The association of assembled ClpA hexamers with the ClpP core cylinder displays cooperativity, supporting the coexistence of interchanging ClpP conformations with different affinities for ClpA.

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