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ATP Synthase is one of the most important enzymes found in the mitochondria of cells. In this lesson, you’ll learn about ATP Synthase structure and function. You’ll have the opportunity to check your understanding with a quiz at the end of the lesson.

ATP Synthase – Definition

Have you ever wondered how your muscles move? Or how eating and drinking actually supplies energy for your body? Well, you will be able to answer all those questions by the end of this lesson. Let’s begin with the meaning of ATP synthase.

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ATP synthase is an enzyme located in the mitochondria and chloroplasts (plant cells) that produces the energy ‘currency’ of the cell known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP).ATP is used by most all living organisms, including you. That’s right, your body is producing ATP right now.

You have more than 15 trillion cells in your body and in each cell the ATP synthases (there are more than 1 in each cell) are making ATP about million ATP/minute. Yes, that’s correct, a million a minute! That is a lot of energy!!!

ATP Synthase – Structure

The structure of ATP synthase is very interesting. Inside the mitochondria there are different layers, and the ATP synthase is found within the layer known as the inner mitochondrial membrane. The enzyme actually goes through the inner membrane.

ATP synthase has two major components: F1 and F0. These components are complex, so we’ll discuss each one in detail.

F1 Complex

The first major component of ATP synthase, known as F1 complex, has five major subunits. They are the alpha, beta, gamma, delta and epsilon subunits.F1 is actually found in the matrix. Remember, mitochondria have many different layers.

Those layers help get as many ATP synthase molecules into one mitochondrion as possible. It is very similar to folding your clothes in order to fit more into a drawer or suitcase. Imagine a motor spinning inside your cells to produce enough energy to help you move and do anything needed for survival.

Well, F1 is like a motor that spins to help produce the ATP.

F0 Complex

The second component of ATP synthase, F0, is made of three subunits. No, these subunits are not named after Greek letters.

They are a lot easier to remember: they are subunits a, b, and c. Humans have three additional subunits, d, e, and f. See, easy to remember.F0 is found in the inner membrane of the mitochondria. F0 is much like a proton channel. It sits in the inner membrane and allows for protons, or H+ ions, to go through the membrane to help produce ATP. Those protons will become very important when we begin learning about the function.

ATP Synthase – Function

So now that we understand the structure of ATP synthase, let’s understand the function. The entire reason ATP synthase exists is to produce ATP. Recall, we talked about why ATP was so important at the beginning of the lesson.

It is the energy currency that your cells use to help you bust a move on the dance floor or be able to sit here and read this lesson. Your body needs ATP!Working together with other enzymes in the mitochondria, ATP synthase produces ATP using a proton gradient. These protons travel through the F0 complex and spins the F1 complex like a motor in order to take ADP (which is adenosine diphosphate) and add another phosphate to make it ATP.

Lesson Summary

Now that you are an expert about ATP synthase, let’s review what we learned so you can master the quiz! First, ATP synthase is an enzyme located in the mitochondria of eukaryotic (animal) cells and the chloroplasts of plant cells. The energy currency that ATP synthase creates is called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). There are two components to ATP synthase, F1 and F0.F1 is composed of five subunits named after Greek letters: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and epsilon.

It is located in the matrix and is a motor that is controlled by the movement of protons.F0 has three major subunits: a, b, and c (remember humans have three additional subunits d, e, and f). F0 sits in the inner membrane of the mitochondria and acts like a proton, or H+ ion, channel that allows for protons to enter and spin the motor known as F1 to produce ATP.

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