Large single three-dimensional crystals of the dodecylmaltoside complex of the Neurospora crassa plasma membrane H(+)-ATPase (H(+) P-ATPase) can be grown in polyethylene-glycol-containing solutions optimized for moderate supersaturation of both the protein surfaces and detergent micellar region. Large two-dimensional H(+) P-ATPase crystals also grow on the surface of such mixtures and on carbon films located at such surfaces. Electron crystallographic analysis of the two-dimensional crystals grown on carbon films has recently elucidated the structure of the H(+) P-ATPase at a resolution of 0.8 nm in the membrane plane. The two-dimensional crystals comprise two offset layers of ring-shaped ATPase hexamers with their exocytoplasmic surfaces face to face. Side-to-side interactions between the cytoplasmic regions of the hexamers in each layer can be seen, and an interaction between identical exocytoplasmic loops in opposing hexamer layers holds the two layers together. Detergent rings around the membrane-embedded region of the hexamers are clearly visible, and detergent-detergent interactions between the rings are also apparent. The crystal packing forces thus comprise both protein-protein and detergent-detergent interactions, supporting the validity of the original crystallization strategy. Ten transmembrane helices in each ATPase monomer are well-defined in the structure map. They are all relatively straight, closely packed, moderately tilted at various angles with respect to a plane normal to the membrane surface and average approximately 3.5 nm in length. The transmembrane helix region is connected in at least three places to the larger cytoplasmic region, which comprises several discrete domains separated by relatively wide, deep clefts. Previous work has shown that the H(+) P-ATPase undergoes substantial conformational changes during its catalytic cycle that are not changes in secondary structure. Importantly, the results of hydrogen/deuterium exchange experiments indicate that these conformational changes are probably rigid-body interdomain movements that lead to cleft closure. When interpreted within the framework of established principles of enzyme catalysis, this information on the structure and dynamics of the H(+) P-ATPase molecule provides the basis of a rational model for the sequence of events that occurs as the ATPase proceeds through its transport cycle. The forces that drive the sequence can also be clearly stipulated. However, an understanding of the molecular mechanism of ion transport catalyzed by the H(+) P-ATPase awaits an atomic resolution structure.

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