Predicted Structures of the Proton-Bound Membrane-Embedded Rotor Rings of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Escherichia coli ATP Synthases

J Phys Chem B. 2017 Apr 20;121(15):3297-3307. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.6b08051. Epub 2016 Oct 24.


Recent years have witnessed a renewed interest in the ATP synthase as a drug target against human pathogens. Indeed, clinical, biochemical, and structural data indicate that hydrophobic inhibitors targeting the membrane-embedded proton-binding sites of the c-subunit ring could serve as last-resort antibiotics against multidrug resistant strains. However, because inhibition of the mitochondrial ATP synthase in humans is lethal, it is essential that these inhibitors be not only potent but also highly selective for the bacterial enzyme. To this end, a detailed understanding of the structure of this protein target is arguably instrumental. Here, we use computational methods to predict the atomic structures of the proton-binding sites in two prototypical c-rings: that of the ATP synthase from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is a model system for mitochondrial enzymes, and that from Escherichia coli, which can be pathogenic for humans. Our study reveals the structure of these binding sites loaded with protons and in the context of the membrane, that is, in the state that would mediate the recognition of a potential inhibitor. Both structures reflect a mode of proton coordination unlike those previously observed in other c-ring structures, whether experimental or modeled.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / chemistry*
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism
  • Protons*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology*


  • Protons
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases