Robert H. Fillingame

Position title: Professor Emeritus


Phone: (608) 262-1439

6204A Biochemical Sciences Building
440 Henry Mall, Madison, WI 53706


• BS 1968, Washington State University
• PhD 1973, University of Washington, Seattle
• Postdoctoral, 1973-75, Harvard Medical School (E.P. Kennedy)

Honors & Awards

• Medical Alumni Named Professorship, 1988
• NIH Merit Award, 1994
• WARF Mid-Career Faculty Researcher Award, 1998
• Dean’s Teaching Award (School of Medicine), 2008
Chancellor’s Teaching Award , 2012

Research Interests

My research focuses on the molecular mechanism of ATP synthesis during oxidative phosphorylation. ATP synthesis is driven by a trans membrane proton gradient generated by the electron transport system. The enzyme catalyzing ATP synthesis is biologically unique in using the electrochemical energy of the proton gradient to drive the rotation of a molecular motor which in turn drives ATP synthesis. The ATP synthase has been termed the “world’s smallest rotary motor”. The process works as follows. Proton transport through the Fo membrane sector of the enzyme is coupled with the rotation of a molecular rotor composed of multiple c subunits. The c oligomeric rotor in turn drives ATP synthesis via the rotation of two attached subunits (gamma and epsilon) which cycle between circularly arranged multiple catalytic sites in the extramembranous F1 sector of the enzyme. In the complete process of ATP synthesis the electrochemical energy of the proton gradient is converted into mechanical energy and, via structural/mechanical changes in the catalytic sites, ultimately into the chemical energy of ATP. Our long term goal is to elucidate the structure and molecular mechanism of this fascinating machine.


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