Features of apparent nonchemiosmotic energization of oxidative phosphorylation by alkaliphilic Bacillus firmus OF4

Arthur A. Guffanti, Terry Ann Krulwich

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    Oxidative phosphorylation by extremely alkaliphilic Bacillus species violates two major predictions of the chemiosmotic hypothesis: the magnitude of the chemiosmotic driving force, the Δp (electrochemical proton gradient), is too low to account for the phosphorylation potentials observed during growth at pH 10.5 without using a much higher H+/ATP stoichiometry than used during growth at pH 7.5, and artificially imposed diffusion potentials fail to energize ATP synthesis above about pH 9.5 (Guffanti, A. A., and Krulwich, T. A. (1989) Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 43, 435-463). To further examine the latter observation, large valinomycin-mediated potassium diffusion potentials were imposed across starved cells of Bacillus firmus OF4 at various pH values from pH 7.5 to 10.5. As the external pH increased above pH 8, there was a sharp decrease in the rate of ATP synthesis in response to an imposed diffusion potential. The rate of ATP synthesis fell to zero by pH 9.2 and 9.4, respectively, in the presence and absence of a small inwardly directed Na+ gradient. Electrogenic Na+/H+ antiport and Na+/α-aminoisobutyric acid symport proceeded at substantial rates throughout. When synthesis was energized by an electron donor, cells under comparable conditions synthesized ATP at rapid rates up to pH 10.5. The proton transfers that occur during respiration-dependent oxidative phosphorylation at pH 10.5 may depend upon specific complexes. Cells grown at pH 7.5, which have one-third the levels of the caa3-type terminal oxidase, and slightly lower levels of certain other respiratory chain complexes than pH 10.5-grown cells, support only low rates of ATP synthesis at pH 10.5, although energy-dependent symport and antiport rates are comparable with those in pH 10.5-grown cells. A model is presented for oxidative phosphorylation by the alkaliphilic Bacillus that involves a nonchemiosmotic direct intramembrane transfer of protons from specific respiratory chain complexes to the F0 sector of the ATPase, whereas remaining respiratory chain complexes extrude protons into the bulk to generate the bulk potential required both for ATP synthesis and other bioenergetic work. A pK-regulated gate or a delocalized proton pathway that fails to work above pH 9.5 are suggested as possible features that account for the loss of efficacy of a bulk-imposed diffusion potential in energizing ATP synthesis above pH 9.4.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)9580-9588
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
    Issue number14
    StatePublished - 15 May 1992


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