Shanna N., from the United States, wrote in response to ATP synthase: majestic molecular machine made by a mastermind:

But some anaerobic bacteria do not contain the enzyme ATP synthase, so it is not a requirement for life at all. They produce their ATP via glycolysis only, and use fermentation in place of cellular respiration. And thus it is perfectly understandable how simpler proteins in these primitive cells could have evolved into the complex molecular motor we know and love …

Brian Thomas, author of the article, responds:

Dear Shanna,

Thanks for reading our article on the design of ATP synthase. Also, thanks for submitting your comment, which provides me the opportunity to clarify both the science and the semantics of my original article.

You wrote, “But some anaerobic bacteria do not contain the enzyme ATP synthase, so it is not a requirement for life at all. They produce their ATP via glycolysis only, and use fermentation in place of cellular respiration. And thus it is perfectly understandable how simpler proteins in these primitive cells could have evolved into the complex molecular motor we know and love…”

First, this wording appears to assume that my article asserted that ATP synthase is a requirement for all life. My wording did not go this far, but it could have! Here is the first line of my article: “Life depends on an incredible enzyme called ATP synthase, the world’s tiniest rotary motor.” I did not write, “All life depends … ,” but in fact all life does depend on ATPase. Here is why:

Obligate anaerobes may not use ATP synthase to manufacture ATP, but they do use it to pump protons out of their cytoplasm. They would die otherwise. All cells have ATP synthase, because all cells need it. As evidence, consider a 1986 technical paper in the Journal of Bacteriology, wherein the authors took electron micrographs of F1-ATPase in the anaerobic Clostridium bacteria.1

A recent paper by biochemist Douglas Axe put it this way: “Various forms of this ingenious device are found in all forms of life.”2

Thus, your statement, “But some anaerobic bacteria do not contain the enzyme ATP synthase” is apparently incorrect. If any bacterium is discovered without it, I would like to know about it….

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