The emerging structure of vacuolar ATPases

Omri Drory*, Nathan Nelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Bioenergetics and physiology of primary pumps have been revitalized by new insights into the mechanism of energizing biomembranes. Structural information is becoming available, and the three-dimensional structure of F-ATPase is being resolved. The growing understanding of the fundamental mechanism of energy coupling may revolutionize our view of biological processes. The F- and V-ATPases (vacuolar-type ATPase) exhibit a common mechanical design in which nucleotide-binding on the catalytic sector, through a cycle of conformation changes, drives the transmembrane passage of protons by turning a membrane-embedded rotor. This motor can run in forward or reverse directions, hydrolyzing ATP as it pumps protons uphill or creating ATP as protons flow downhill. In contrast to F-ATPases, whose primary function in eukaryotic cells is to form ATP at the expense of the proton-motive force (pmf), V-ATPases function exclusively as an ATP-dependent proton pump. The pmf generated by V-ATPases in organelles and membranes of eukaryotic cells is utilized as a driving force for numerous secondary transport processes. V- and F-ATPases have similar structure and mechanism of action, and several of their subunits evolved from common ancestors. Electron microscopy studies of V-ATPase revealed its general structure at low resolution. Recently, several structures of V-ATPase subunits, solved by X-ray crystallography with atomic resolution, were published. This, together with electron microscopy low-resolution maps of the whole complex, and biochemistry crosslinking experiments, allows construction of a structural model for a part of the complex that may be used as a working hypothesis for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-325
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2006


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