Our understanding of the rotary-coupling mechanism of F1-ATPase has been greatly enhanced in the last decade by advances in X-ray crystallography, single-molecular imaging, and theoretical models. Recently, Volkán-Kacsó and Marcus [S. Volkán-Kacsó, R. A. Marcus, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 112, 14230 (2015)] presented an insightful thermodynamic model based on the Marcus reaction theory coupled with an elastic structural deformation term to explain the observed γ-rotation angle dependence of the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)/adenosine diphosphate (ADP) exchange rates of F1-ATPase. Although the model is successful in correlating single-molecule data, it is not in agreement with the available theoretical results. We describe a revision of the model, which leads to consistency with the simulation results and other experimental data on the F1-ATPase rotor compliance. Although the free energy liberated on ATP hydrolysis by F1-ATPase is rapidly dissipated as heat and so cannot contribute directly to the rotation, we show how, nevertheless, F1-ATPase functions near the maximum possible efficiency. This surprising result is a consequence of the differential binding of ATP and its hydrolysis products ADP and Pi along a well-defined pathway.
F1-ATPase, chemo–mechanical coupling, energy-conversion efficiency, free-energy profile