De novo design of self-assembling helical protein filaments

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Science  09 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6415, pp. 705-709
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau3775

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Built to be reversible

There has been some success in designing stable peptide filaments; however, mimicking the reversible assembly of many natural protein filaments is challenging. Dynamic filaments usually comprise independently folded and asymmetric proteins and using such building blocks requires the design of multiple intermonomer interfaces. Shen et al. report the design of self-assembling helical filaments based on previously designed stable repeat proteins. The filaments are micron scale, and their diameter can be tuned by varying the number of repeats in the monomer. Anchor and capping units, built from monomers that lack an interaction interface, can be used to control assembly and disassembly.

Science, this issue p. 705


We describe a general computational approach to designing self-assembling helical filaments from monomeric proteins and use this approach to design proteins that assemble into micrometer-scale filaments with a wide range of geometries in vivo and in vitro. Cryo–electron microscopy structures of six designs are close to the computational design models. The filament building blocks are idealized repeat proteins, and thus the diameter of the filaments can be systematically tuned by varying the number of repeat units. The assembly and disassembly of the filaments can be controlled by engineered anchor and capping units built from monomers lacking one of the interaction surfaces. The ability to generate dynamic, highly ordered structures that span micrometers from protein monomers opens up possibilities for the fabrication of new multiscale metamaterials.

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