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Keywords:

  • enzyme mechanisms;
  • membrane proteins;
  • structural biology

Abstract

Optical microscopy of single F1-ATPase and FoF1-ATP synthases started 15 years ago. Direct demonstration of ATP-driven subunit rotation by videomicroscopy became the new exciting tool to analyze the conformational changes of this enzyme during catalysis. Stimulated by these experiments, technical improvements for higher time resolution, better angular resolution, and reduced viscous drag were developed rapidly. Optics and single-molecule enzymology were entangled to benefit both biochemists and microscopists. Today, several single-molecule microscopy methods are established including controls for the precise nanomanipulation of individual enzymes in vitro. Förster resonance energy transfer, which has been used for simultaneous monitoring of conformational changes of different parts of this rotary motor, is one of them and may become the tool for the analysis of single FoF1-ATP synthases in membranes of living cells. Here, breakthrough experiments are critically reviewed and challenges are discussed for the future microscopy of single ATP synthesizing enzymes at work. © 2013 IUBMB Life, 65(3):227–237, 2013