Made-To-Measure Protein Crystals | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 18 | p. 34 | Concentrates
Issue Date: April 30, 2012

Made-To-Measure Protein Crystals

Design project is a step toward simplifying protein crystallization
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE, Materials SCENE
Keywords: protein design, computational chemistry, structural biology, nanostructured materials
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Saven’s team sought honeycomb-like crystal symmetry (artist’s rendition, left) in computer modeling of protein structures (middle). They found a protein that crystallized just as predicted (right).
Credit: Christopher M. MacDermaid
An artist’s rendition, computer simulation, and a solved crystal structure, all exhibiting the desired geometric qualities.
 
Saven’s team sought honeycomb-like crystal symmetry (artist’s rendition, left) in computer modeling of protein structures (middle). They found a protein that crystallized just as predicted (right).
Credit: Christopher M. MacDermaid

With computational tools, chemists have designed a protein that self-assembles in three dimensions to produce protein crystals with the symmetry properties of their choice (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1112595109). This achievement could someday have applications in designing nanoscale materials and might also help structural biologists decide which sections of a protein to modify for coaxing crystal formation. Jeffery G. Saven at the University of Pennsylvania; William F. DeGrado of the University of California, San Francisco; and coworkers set out to design a crystal with the honeycomb-like symmetry of the P6 space group, which occurs in just 0.1% of protein crystal structures. Starting with a three-helix bundle protein, they estimated the energetic consequences of varying each amino acid that might be involved with protein-protein contacts in a crystal. From those myriad possibilities, they picked five protein sequences that were predicted to form stable crystals in the lab. One of the five, a protein called P6-d, crystallized into a structure consistent with the P6 space group. The team plans to test the technique on more complex proteins soon.

 
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