PerspectiveStructural Biology

Energy powerhouses of cells come into focus

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Science  11 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6389, pp. 600-601
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6275

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In every kingdom of life, rotary adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthases and adenosine triphosphatases (ATPases) play key roles in cellular energy generation and release processes. In mitochondria, chloroplasts, and bacteria, F-type (F1Fo) ATP synthases synthesize ATP using energy from a proton gradient. They are also able to perform the reverse process, generating proton gradients by ATP hydrolysis. The related V-type (V1Vo) ATPases have similar structures and serve as proton pumps. Two articles in this issue report structures of membrane-embedded ATP synthases from yeast mitochondria [Srivastava et al., page 619, (1)] and spinach chloroplasts [Hahn et al., page 620, (2)]. Together with other recent structures, these articles define core design principles of rotary ATP synthases and ATPases but also highlight organism-specific differences.