Nucleotide-free MalK drives the transition of the maltose transporter to the inward-facing conformation [Enzymology]

February 13th, 2014 by Bao, H., Duong, F.

The complex MalFGK2 hydrolyzes ATP and alternates between inward- and outward-facing conformations during maltose transport. It has been shown that ATP promotes closure of MalK2 and opening of MalFG toward the periplasm. Yet, why the transporter rests in a conformation facing the cytosol in the absence of nucleotide, and how it returns to this state after hydrolysis of ATP is unknown. The membrane domain MalFG may be naturally stable in the inward-facing conformation, or the ABC domain may catalyze the transition. We address this question by analyzing the conformation of MalFG in nanodiscs and in proteoliposomes. We find that MalFG alone exists in an intermediate state, until MalK binds and converts the membrane domain to the inward-facing state. We also find that MalK if overly-bound to MalFG blocks the transition of the transporter, whereas suppressor mutations that weaken this association restore transport. MalK therefore exploits hydrolysis of ATP to reverse the conformation of MalFG to the inward-facing conformation, a step essential for release of maltose in the cytosol.