Double-lock ratchet mechanism revealing the role of SER-344 in FoF1 ATP synthase

T. Beke-Somfai, P. Lincoln, B. Norden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In a majority of living organisms, FoF1 ATP synthase performs the fundamental process of ATP synthesis. Despite the simple net reaction formula, ADP+Pi→ATP+H2O, the detailed step-by-step mechanism of the reaction yet remains to be resolved owing to the complexity of this multisubunit enzyme. Based on quantum mechanical computations using recent high resolution X-ray structures, we propose that during ATP synthesis the enzyme first prepares the inorganic phosphate for the γP-OADP bond-forming step via a double-proton transfer. At this step, the highly conserved αS344 side chain plays a catalytic role. The reaction thereafter progresses through another transition state (TS) having a planar ion configuration to finally form ATP. These two TSs are concluded crucial for ATP synthesis. Using stepwise scans and several models of the nucleotide-bound active site, some of the most important conformational changes were traced toward direction of synthesis. Interestingly, as the active site geometry progresses toward the ATP-favoring tight binding site, at both of these TSs, a dramatic increase in barrier heights is observed for the reverse direction, i.e., hydrolysis of ATP. This change could indicate a "ratchet" mechanism for the enzyme to ensure efficacy of ATP synthesis by shifting residue conformation and thus locking access to the crucial TSs.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4828-4833
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 7 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUK-11-008-23
Acknowledgements: This work is funded by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Grant KUK-11-008-23). The Eötvös University computer facility, the High Performance Computing Group (University of Szeged), and the Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing resources were used for calculations.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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