F(1)-ATPase is a rotary motor protein in which 3 catalytic β-subunits in a stator α(3)β(3) ring undergo unidirectional and cooperative conformational changes to rotate the rotor γ-subunit upon adenosine triphosphate hydrolysis. The prevailing view of the mechanism behind this rotary catalysis elevated the γ-subunit as a "dictator" completely controlling the chemical and conformational states of the 3 catalytic β-subunits. However, our recent observations using high-speed atomic force microscopy clearly revealed that the 3 β-subunits undergo cyclic conformational changes even in the absence of the rotor γ-subunit, thus dethroning it from its dictatorial position. Here, we introduce our results in detail and discuss the possible operating principle behind the F(1)-ATPase, along with structurally related hexameric ATPases, also mentioning the possibility of generating hybrid nanomotors. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: 17th European Bioenergetics Conference (EBEC 2012).
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