Elastic deformations of the rotary double motor of single F(o)F(1)-ATP synthases detected in real time by Förster resonance energy transfer

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Oct;1817(10):1722-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2012.03.034. Epub 2012 Apr 5.


Elastic conformational changes of the protein backbone are essential for catalytic activities of enzymes. To follow relative movements within the protein, Förster-type resonance energy transfer (FRET) between two specifically attached fluorophores can be applied. FRET provides a precise ruler between 3 and 8nm with subnanometer resolution. Corresponding submillisecond time resolution is sufficient to identify conformational changes in FRET time trajectories. Analyzing single enzymes circumvents the need for synchronization of various conformations. F(O)F(1)-ATP synthase is a rotary double motor which catalyzes the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). A proton-driven 10-stepped rotary F(O) motor in the Escherichia coli enzyme is connected to a 3-stepped F(1) motor, where ATP is synthesized. To operate the double motor with a mismatch of step sizes smoothly, elastic deformations within the rotor parts have been proposed by W. Junge and coworkers. Here we extend a single-molecule FRET approach to observe both rotary motors simultaneously in individual F(O)F(1)-ATP synthases at work. We labeled this enzyme with two fluorophores specifically, that is, on the ε- and c-subunits of the two rotors. Alternating laser excitation was used to select the FRET-labeled enzymes. FRET changes indicated associated transient twisting within the rotors of single enzyme molecules during ATP hydrolysis and ATP synthesis. Supported by Monte Carlo simulations of the FRET experiments, these studies reveal that the rotor twisting is greater than 36° and is largely suppressed in the presence of the rotation inhibitor DCCD. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: 17th European Bioenergetics Conference (EBEC 2012).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Catalysis
  • Elasticity
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / chemistry*
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / genetics
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism


  • Proton-Translocating ATPases