Most cellular ATP is made by rotary F1FO ATP synthases using proton translocation-generated clockwise torque on the FO c-ring rotor, while F1-ATP hydrolysis can force counterclockwise rotation and proton pumping. The FO torque-generating mechanism remains elusive even though the FO interface of stator subunit-a, which contains the transmembrane proton half-channels, and the c-ring is known from recent F1FO structures. Here, single-molecule F1FO rotation studies determined that the pKa values of the half-channels differ, show that mutations of residues in these channels change the pKa values of both half-channels, and reveal the ability of FO to undergo single c-subunit rotational stepping. These experiments provide evidence to support the hypothesis that proton translocation through FO operates via a Grotthuss mechanism involving a column of single water molecules in each half-channel linked by proton translocation-dependent c-ring rotation. We also observed pH-dependent 11° ATP synthase-direction sub-steps of the E. coli c10-ring of F1FO against the torque of F1-ATPase-dependent rotation that result from H+ transfer events from FO subunit-a groups with a low pKa to one c-subunit in the c-ring, and from an adjacent c-subunit to stator groups with a high pKa. These results support a mechanism in which alternating proton translocation-dependent 11° and 25° synthase-direction rotational sub-steps of the c10-ring occur to sustain F1FO ATP synthesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Neuroscience
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology