PerspectivePolymers

Random copolymers that protect proteins

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Science  16 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6381, pp. 1216-1217
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat0155

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Summary

Scientists have tried and in some limited cases succeeded to harness proteins to do chemistry (1) or use them in functional materials. However, most proteins only function correctly if they fold into specific conformations, which typically occurs with the assistance of other proteins (such as chaperones, translocons, or transporters) that mediate structure formation, membrane insertion, and intracellular trafficking (2, 3). Several methods have been used to improve protein stability in nonbiological environments—including micelle encapsulation, polymer conjugation, and sol-gel trapping (4)—but for most intended applications, they suffer from low levels of functionality, difficult chemical postfunctionalization, or the requirement of very specific solvent environments. On page 1239 of this issue, Panganiban et al. (5) introduce an approach for stabilizing proteins in disparate solvent environments that does not suffer from these drawbacks.