AUG 10, 2017 06:00 AM PDT

Research Sheds Light on Self-assembled Protein Cage and Inspires New Designs in Nanotechnology

The goal of nanotechnology in the field of biomedical science is to build homogenous miniature carriers that can target specific sites and deliver payloads. Biomaterials such as nucleotides, proteins, and lipids are the preferred ingredients, for reasons of safety and compatibility. However, nature-inspired synthetic proteins have also attracted a lot of attention due to their self-assembling ability.

In a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team from the University of Bristol reported their findings on the self-assembly mechanism of synthetic protein building blocks.

Spherical “Cage” formed by synthetic protein building blocks. Credit: University of Bristol

Proteins or peptides can form different complexes using a mechanism called molecular self-assembly. It is the process through which molecules form complex superstructures with defined order and shapes, without any outside influence. Depending on whether a different type of molecule is involved, self-assembly can be intramolecular and intermolecular.

Model sphere of Icosahedral symmetry. Credit: Wikipedia

Many natural proteins can self-assemble and form shells of high symmetric order, for example, the capsid of a virus is a protein shell in icosahedral packing order. The researchers used synthetic proteins to recreate the tightly packed self-assembly with icosahedral symmetry and investigated the stability of these protein shells under perturbations created by the flexibility of the interacting blocks. They found that in the presence of those perturbations, icosahedral packing is not the most stable arrangement for various parameters. Even a small amount of flexibility can result in stable disordered configurations. By gaining insights into the regularity of the self-assembled cages, the team hopes they can inspire a new design paradigm for the synthetic proteins and can drive new experimental methodologies.

When asked about the potential impacts of their study, the researchers envisioned a bright future for the self-assembling synthetic proteins in various fields of applications. "Our work focuses on how robust the symmetry of the cage is given the flexibility of the protein building blocks. Our work sheds light on the self-assembly mechanisms in these cages, which can have widespread applications in material science and synthetic biology, including fabrication of metamaterials, targeted drug delivery, vaccine design and nanoreactors," said Dr. Majid Mosayebi, the lead author and a theoretical Biophysicist from the University of Bristol.

Source: Phys.org/PNAS

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
JAN 20, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 20, 2020
How Proteins Send Instant Messages
Our cells use proteins as messengers that send or receive critical signals to carry out the functions essential for life....
JAN 20, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 20, 2020
What do a Wing Nut and a Tennis Racket Have in Common?
In 1985 during a mission to rescue the space station Salyut-7, Soviet astronaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov observed something rather strange. A free-flowing wing...
JAN 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 20, 2020
A More Practical Theory Regarding Tabby's Star
A distant star system called KIC 8462852, also commonly known as ‘Tabby’s Star,’ has a particularly interesting reputation for dimming sp...
JAN 20, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
JAN 20, 2020
Developing Animal-Free Neurotoxin Testing
The need to assess a group of deadly neurotoxins without turning to animal-testing may soon be a possibility. A new animal-free testing technique was recen...
JAN 20, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 20, 2020
Self-learning, Light-responsive Robot Inspired by Pavlov's Dog
Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov famously trained the canines in his experiments to salivate in response to the sound of a metronome, which was a showcase...
JAN 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 20, 2020
Lunar Dust is Actually Quite Dangerous to Humans
Most people have a tendency to think that lunar dust isn’t any different than the dirt found here on Earth, but quite the opposite is true. In fact,...
Loading Comments...