PerspectiveSELF-ASSEMBLY

Bringing proteins into the fold

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Science  24 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6331, pp. 1261-1262
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9541

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Summary

Molecular engineers have become increasingly adept at repurposing life's building blocks to make custom self-assembled shapes. Because a single drop of solution contains billions of such shapes, DNA origami smiley faces (1), RNA stars (2), and designer protein polyhedra (3) may vastly outnumber most other human-made objects on Earth. These shapes lack immediate practical utility, but they transmit a powerful message: Researchers are beginning to understand how molecules self-assemble. On page 1283 of this issue, Praetorius and Dietz make another leap forward by demonstrating a novel class of nanostructures, namely DNA-protein hybrid shapes (4). This is an important advance because it provides a method to create human-designed shapes out of ingredients that are generally compatible with living systems.