ATP synthases: insights into their motor functions from sequence and structural analyses

J Bioenerg Biomembr. 2003 Apr;35(2):95-120. doi: 10.1023/a:1023786618422.


ATP synthases are motor complexes comprised of F0 and F1 parts that couple the proton gradient across the membrane to the synthesis of ATP by rotary catalysis. Although a great deal of information has been accumulated regarding the structure and function of ATP synthases, their motor functions are not fully understood. For this reason, we performed the alignments and analyses of the protein sequences comprising the core of the ATP synthase motor complex, and examined carefully the locations of the conserved residues in the subunit structures of ATP synthases. A summary of the findings from this bioinformatic study is as follows. First, we found that four conserved regions in the sequence of gamma subunit are clustered into three patches in its structure. The interactions of these conserved patches with the alpha and beta subunits are likely to be critical for energy coupling and catalytic activity of the ATP synthase. Second, we located a four-residue cluster at the N-terminal domain of mitochondrial OSCP or bacterial (or chloroplast) delta subunit which may be critical for the binding of these subunits to F1. Third, from the localizations of conserved residues in the subunits comprising the rotors of ATP synthases, we suggest that the conserved interaction site at the interface of subunit c and delta (mitochondria) or epsilon (bacteria and chloroplasts) may be important for connecting the rotor of F1 to the rotor of F0. Finally, we found the sequence of mitochondrial subunit b to be highly conserved, significantly longer than bacterial subunit b, and to contain a shorter dimerization domain than that of the bacterial protein. It is suggested that the different properties of mitochondrial subunit b may be necessary for interaction with other proteins, e.g., the supernumerary subunits.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Chloroplast Proton-Translocating ATPases / chemistry
  • Chloroplast Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Proton-Translocating ATPases / chemistry
  • Mitochondrial Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / chemistry*
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Subunits
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / chemistry*
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment / methods*
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein / methods
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Chloroplast Proton-Translocating ATPases
  • Mitochondrial Proton-Translocating ATPases
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases