Targeted disulfide cross-linking of the MotB protein of Escherichia coli: evidence for two H(+) channels in the stator Complex

Biochemistry. 2001 Oct 30;40(43):13051-9. doi: 10.1021/bi011264g.


Bacterial flagella are turned by rotary motors that obtain energy from the membrane gradient of protons or sodium ions. The stator of the flagellar motor is formed from the membrane proteins MotA and MotB, which associate in complexes that contain multiple copies of each protein. The complexes conduct ions across the membrane, and couple ion flow to motor rotation by a mechanism that appears to involve conformational changes [Kojima, S., and Blair, D. F. (2001) Biochemistry 40, 13041-13050]. Structural information on the MotA/MotB complex is very limited. MotA has four membrane-spanning segments, and MotB has one. We have begun a targeted disulfide-cross-linking study to probe the arrangement of membrane segments in the MotA/MotB complex, beginning with the single membrane segment of MotB. Cys residues were introduced in 21 consecutive positions in the segment, and disulfide cross-linking was studied in MotA/MotB complexes either in membranes or detergent solution. Most of the Cys-substituted MotB proteins formed disulfide-linked dimers in significant yield upon oxidation. The yield of dimer varied regularly with the position of the Cys substitution, following the pattern expected for a parallel, symmetric dimer of alpha-helices. In a structural model based on the cross-linking experiments, critical Asp32 residues that are believed to facilitate proton movement are positioned on separate surfaces of the MotB dimer and so probably function within two distinct proton channels. Regions accessible to solvent were mapped by measuring the reactivity of introduced Cys residues toward N-ethyl maleimide and a charged methanethiosulfonate reagent. Positions near the middle of the segment were inaccessible to sulhydryl reagents. Positions within 6-8 residues of either end, which includes residues around Asp32, were accessible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aspartic Acid / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / pharmacology
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Dimerization
  • Disulfides / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Escherichia coli / chemistry*
  • Ethylmaleimide / pharmacology
  • Hydrogen / metabolism*
  • Immunoblotting
  • Iodine / pharmacology
  • Ions
  • Mesylates / pharmacology
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protons


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Disulfides
  • Ions
  • Mesylates
  • MotB protein, Bacteria
  • Protons
  • Aspartic Acid
  • methanethiosulfonate
  • Hydrogen
  • Iodine
  • Cysteine
  • Ethylmaleimide
  • Oxygen