Engineered protein nano-compartments for targeted enzyme localization

Swati Choudhary, Maureen B. Quin, Mark A. Sanders, Ethan T. Johnson, Claudia Schmidt-Dannert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Compartmentalized co-localization of enzymes and their substrates represents an attractive approach for multi-enzymatic synthesis in engineered cells and biocatalysis. Sequestration of enzymes and substrates would greatly increase reaction efficiency while also protecting engineered host cells from potentially toxic reaction intermediates. Several bacteria form protein-based polyhedral microcompartments which sequester functionally related enzymes and regulate their access to substrates and other small metabolites. Such bacterial microcompartments may be engineered into protein-based nano-bioreactors, provided that they can be assembled in a non-native host cell, and that heterologous enzymes and substrates can be targeted into the engineered compartments. Here, we report that recombinant expression of Salmonella enterica ethanolamine utilization (eut) bacterial microcompartment shell proteins in E. coli results in the formation of polyhedral protein shells. Purified recombinant shells are morphologically similar to the native Eut microcompartments purified from S. enterica. Surprisingly, recombinant expression of only one of the shell proteins (EutS) is sufficient and necessary for creating properly delimited compartments. Co-expression with EutS also facilitates the encapsulation of EGFP fused with a putative Eut shell-targeting signal sequence. We also demonstrate the functional localization of a heterologous enzyme (β-galactosidase) targeted to the recombinant shells. Together our results provide proof-of-concept for the engineering of protein nano-compartments for biosynthesis and biocatalysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere33342
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 12 2012


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