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Biochemistry. 2008 Oct 28;47(43):11332-9. doi: 10.1021/bi801347a. Epub 2008 Oct 4.

Membrane segment organization in the stator complex of the flagellar motor: implications for proton flow and proton-induced conformational change.

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Department of Biology, UniVersity of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA.


MotA and MotB are membrane proteins that form the stator of the bacterial flagellar motor. Each motor contains several MotA 4MotB 2 complexes, which function independently to conduct protons across the membrane and couple proton flow to rotation. The mechanism of rotation is not understood in detail but is thought to involve conformational changes in the stator complexes driven by proton association/dissociation at a critical Asp residue of MotB (Asp 32 in the protein of Escherichia coli). MotA has four membrane segments and MotB has one. Previous studies using targeted disulfide cross-linking showed that the membrane segments of the two MotB subunits are together at the center of the complex, surrounded by the TM3 and TM4 segments of the four MotA subunits. Here, the cross-linking studies are extended to TM1 and TM2 of MotA, using Cys residues introduced in several positions in the segments. The observed patterns of disulfide cross-linking indicate that the TM2 segment is positioned between segments TM3 and TM4 of the same subunit, where it could contribute to the proton-channel-forming part of the structure. TM1 is at the interface between TM4 of its own subunit and the TM3 segment of another subunit, where it could stabilize the complex. A structural model based on the cross-linking results shows unobstructed pathways reaching from the periplasm to the Asp 32 residues near the inner ends of the MotB segments. The model indicates a close proximity for certain conserved, functionally important residues. The results are used to develop an explicit model for the proton-induced conformational change in the stator.

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