Multi-disciplinary methods reveal a novel type of ion binding in the rotor ring of the F1Fo-ATP synthase from the opportunistic pathogen Fusobacterium nucleatum.
The anaerobic bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum uses glutamate decarboxylation to generate a transmembrane gradient of Na+. Here, we demonstrate that this ion-motive force is directly coupled to ATP synthesis, via an F1Fo-ATP synthase with a novel Na+ recognition motif, shared by other human pathogens. Molecular modeling and free-energy simulations of the rotary element of the enzyme, the c-ring, indicate Na+ specificity in physiological settings. Consistently, activity measurements showed Na+ stimulation of the enzyme, either membrane-embedded or isolated, and ATP synthesis was sensitive to the Na+ ionophore monensin. Furthermore, Na+ has a protective effect against inhibitors targeting the ion-binding sites, both in the complete ATP synthase and the isolated c-ring. Definitive evidence of Na+ coupling is provided by two identical crystal structures of the c11 ring, solved by X-ray crystallography at 2.2 and 2.6 Å resolution, at pH 5.3 and 8.7, respectively. Na+ ions occupy all binding sites, each coordinated by four amino acids and a water molecule. Intriguingly, two carboxylates instead of one mediate ion binding. Simulations and experiments demonstrate that this motif implies that a proton is concurrently bound to all sites, although Na+ alone drives the rotary mechanism. The structure thus reveals a new mode of ion coupling in ATP synthases and provides a basis for drug-design efforts against this opportunistic pathogen.
Essential cellular processes such as biosynthesis, transport, and motility are sustained by the energy released in the hydrolysis of ATP, the universal energy carrier in living cells. Most ATP in the cell is produced by a membrane-bound enzyme, the ATP synthase, through a rotary mechanism that is coupled to the translocation of ions across the membrane. The majority of ATP synthases are energized by transmembrane electrochemical gradients of protons (proton-motive force), but a number of organisms, including some important human pathogens, use gradients of sodium ions instead (sodium-motive force). The ion specificity of ATP synthases is determined by a membrane-embedded sub-complex, the c-ring, which is the smallest known biological rotor. The functional mechanism of the rotor ring and its variations among different organisms are of wide interest, because of this enzyme's impact on metabolism and disease, and because of its potential for nanotechnology applications. Here, we characterize a previously unrecognized type of Na+-driven ATP synthase from the opportunistic human pathogen Fusobacterium nucleatum, which is implicated in periodontal diseases. We analyzed this ATP synthase and its rotor ring through a multi-disciplinary approach, combining cell-growth and biochemical assays, X-ray crystallography and computer-simulation methods. Two crystal structures of the membrane rotor were solved, at low and high pH, revealing an atypical ion-recognition motif mediated by two carboxylate side-chains. This motif is shared by other human pathogens, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Streptococcus pneumonia, whose ATP synthases are targets of novel antibiotic drugs. The implications of this ion-recognition mode on the mechanism of the ATP synthase and the cellular bioenergetics of F. nucleatum were thus examined. Our results provide the basis for future pharmacological efforts against this important pathogen.