Skip to main content

Lon degrades stable substrates slowly but with enhanced processivity, redefining the attributes of a successful AAA+ protease


Kasal M.R. , Kotamarthi H.C. , Johnson M.M. , Stephens H.M. , Lang M.J. , Sauer R.T. , Baker T.A. . Cell Reports. 2023 ; 42(9).


PDF   Link

Lon is a widely distributed AAA+ (ATPases associated with diverse cellular activities) protease known for degrading poorly folded and damaged proteins and is often classified as a weak protein unfoldase. Here, using a Lon-degron pair from Mesoplasma florum (MfLon and MfssrA, respectively), we perform ensemble and single-molecule experiments to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underpinning MfLon function. Notably, we find that MfLon unfolds and degrades stably folded substrates and that translocation of these unfolded polypeptides occurs with a ∼6-amino-acid step size. Moreover, the time required to hydrolyze one ATP corresponds to the dwell time between steps, indicating that one step occurs per ATP-hydrolysis-fueled “power stroke.” Comparison of MfLon to related AAA+ enzymes now provides strong evidence that HCLR-clade enzymes function using a shared power-stroke mechanism and, surprisingly, that MfLon is more processive than ClpXP and ClpAP. We propose that ample unfoldase strength and substantial processivity are features that contribute to the Lon family’s evolutionary success.