ATP synthase is a large multimeric protein complex responsible for generating the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in most organisms. The catalysis involves the rotation of a ring of c-subunits, which is driven by the transmembrane electrochemical gradient. This dissertation reports how the eukaryotic c-subunit from spinach chloroplast ATP synthase has successfully been expressed in Escherichia coli and purified in mg quantities by incorporating a unique combination of methods. Expression was accomplished using a codon optimized gene for the c-subunit, and it was expressed as an attachment to the larger, more soluble, native maltose binding protein (MBP-c1). The fusion protein MBP-c1 was purified on an affinity column, and the c1 subunit was subsequently severed by protease cleavage in the presence of detergent. Final purification of the monomeric c1 subunit was accomplished using reversed phase column chromatography with ethanol as an eluent. Circular dichroism spectroscopy data showed clear evidence that the purified c-subunit is folded with the native alpha-helical secondary structure. Recent experiments appear to indicate that this monomeric recombinant c-subunit forms an oligomeric ring that is similar to its native tetradecameric form when reconstituted in liposomes. The F-type ATP synthase c-subunit stoichiometry is currently known to vary from 8 to 15 subunits among different organisms. This has a direct influence on the metabolic requirements of the corresponding organism because each c-subunit binds and transports one H+ across the membrane as the ring makes a complete rotation. The c-ring rotation drives rotation of the gamma-subunit, which in turn drives the synthesis of 3 ATP for every complete rotation. The availability of a recombinantly produced c-ring will lead to new experiments which can be designed to investigate the possible factors that determine the variable c-ring stoichiometry and structure.
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