2017 Volume 14 Pages 161-171
Upon the binding of ATP molecules to nucleotide binding domains (NBDs), ATP-binding cassette (ABC) exporters undergo a conformational transition from an inward-facing (IF) to an outward-facing (OF) state. This molecular event is a typical example of chemo-mechanical coupling. However, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. In this study, we analyzed the IF→OF transition of a representative ABC exporter, MsbA, by solving the equation of motion under an elastic network model (ENM). ATP was represented as a single node in ENM or replaced by external forces. When two ATP nodes were added to the ENM of the IF state protein, the two NBDs dimerized; subsequently, the two transmembrane domains opened toward the extracellular side, resulting in the formation of the OF structure. Such a conformational transition was also reproduced by applying external forces, which caused the rotational motion of the NBDs instead of the addition of ATP nodes. The process of the conformational transition was analyzed in detail using cross-correlation maps for node-node interactions. More importantly, it was revealed that the ATP binding energy is converted into distortion energy of several transmembrane helices. These results are useful for understanding the chemo-mechanical coupling in ABC transporters.