Understanding ATP synthesis: Structure and mechanism of the F1-ATPase (Review)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


To couple the energy present in the electrochemical proton gradient, established across the mitochondrial membrane by the respiratory chain, to the formation of ATP from ADP and Pi, ATP-synthase goes through a sequence of coordinated conformational changes of its major subunits (α, β). These changes are induced by the rotation of the γ subunit driven by the translocation of protons through the c subunit of the membrane portion of the enzyme. During this process, the F1-portion of the ATP-synthase adopts at least two major conformations depending on the occupancy of the β subunits: one with two nucleotides, the other with three. In the two-nucleotide structure, the empty β subunit adopts an open conformation that is highly different from the other conformations of β subunits: tight, loose and closed. The three-dimensional structures of the F1-ATPase in each of these two major conformations provide a framework for understanding the mechanism of energy coupling by the enzyme. The energetics associated with two different models of the reaction steps, analysed using molecular dynamics calculations, show that three-nucleotide intermediates do not occur in configurations with an open β subunit; instead, they are stabilized by completing a jaw-like motion that closes the β subunit around the nucleotide. Consequently, the energy driven, major conformational change takes place with the β subunits in the tight, loose and closed conformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-33
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Membrane Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


  • ATP synthesis
  • F1-ATPase
  • Jaw-like motion
  • Rotational catalysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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