Revolving ATPase motors as asymmetrical hexamers in translocating lengthy dsDNA via conformational changes and electrostatic interactions in phi29, T7, herpesvirus, mimivirus, E. coli, and Streptomyces

The revolving DNA motors of ATPase have been found in viruses (phi29, T7, herpesvirus, and mimivirus) and bacteria (E. coli and Streptomyces). The motors made of asymmetrical 6 subunits translocate lengthy double-stranded (ds)DNA. The dsDNA is moved in a circular motion around the inner surface of the motor channel subunits. The translocation involves conformational changes and electrostatic interactions between the motor subunits and DNA.


Investigations of the parallel architectures of biomotors in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems suggest a similar revolving mechanism in the use of ATP to drive translocation of the lengthy double-stranded (ds)DNA genomes. This mechanism is exemplified by the dsDNA packaging motor of bacteriophage phi29 that operates through revolving but not rotating dsDNA to “Push through a one-way valve”. This unique and novel revolving mechanism discovered in phi29 DNA packaging motor was recently reported in other systems including the dsDNA packaging motor of herpesvirus, the dsDNA ejecting motor of bacteriophage T7, the plasmid conjugation machine TraB in Streptomyces, the dsDNA translocase FtsK of gram-negative bacteria, and the genome-packaging motor in mimivirus. These motors exhibit an asymmetrical hexameric structure for transporting the genome via an inch-worm sequential action. This review intends to delineate the revolving mechanism from a perspective of conformational changes and electrostatic interactions. In phi29, the positively charged residues Arg-Lys-Arg in the N-terminus of the connector bind the negatively charged interlocking domain of pRNA. ATP binding to an ATPase subunit induces the closed conformation of the ATPase. The ATPase associates with an adjacent subunit to form a dimer facilitated by the positively charged arginine finger. The ATP-binding induces a positive charging on its DNA binding surface via an allostery mechanism and thus the higher affinity for the negatively charged dsDNA. ATP hydrolysis induces an expanded conformation of the ATPase with a lower affinity for dsDNA due to the change of the surface charge, but the (ADP+Pi)-bound subunit in the dimer undergoes a conformational change that repels dsDNA. The positively charged lysine rings of the connector attract dsDNA stepwise and periodically to keep its revolving motion along the channel wall, thus maintaining the one-way translocation of dsDNA without reversal and sliding out. The finding of the presence of the asymmetrical hexameric architectures of many ATPases that use the revolving mechanism may provide insights into the understanding of translocation of the gigantic genomes including chromosomes in complicated systems without coiling and tangling to speed up dsDNA translocation and save energy.

Author list:

Tao Weitao*, Giovanna Grandinetti, Peixuan Guo*

How to cite:

T. Weitao, G. Grandinetti, P. Guo, Exploration 2023, 20210056.