ATP: power and torque

Courtesy of Daniela Stock

The paper

A.K. Lee et al., “The structure of the peripheral stalk of Thermus thermophilus H+-ATPase/synthase,” Nat Struct Mol Biol, 17:373–78, 2010.

The finding

Just like the turbines in a hydroelectric power plant, the revolving ‘turbine’ of the energy-generating ATPase requires a stationary component to counteract the rotation of proteins in the core. Daniela Stock at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney and colleagues used X-ray crystallography to find out what this part of the ATPase, known as the peripheral stalk, looks like. The atomic-scale resolution of the molecule revealed the secret behind the protein’s ability to remain stationary.

The trick

Electron microscopy maps can only reveal the overall shape of the outer complex, and although other subunits could be slotted into the 3D picture, this crucial component remained a puzzle. Stock’s lab managed to create a fragment of...

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