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Generation of protein lattices by fusing proteins with matching rotational symmetry


The self-assembly of supramolecular structures that are ordered on the nanometre scale is a key objective in nanotechnology. DNA1,2,3,4 and peptide5,6,7 nanotechnologies have produced various two- and three-dimensional structures, but protein molecules have been underexploited in this area of research. Here we show that the genetic fusion of subunits from protein assemblies that have matching rotational symmetry generates species that can self-assemble into well-ordered, pre-determined one- and two-dimensional arrays that are stabilized by extensive intermolecular interactions. This new class of supramolecular structure provides a way to manufacture biomaterials with diverse structural and functional properties.

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Figure 1: Design of representative classes of crysalins.
Figure 2: Representative examples of 1D and 2D crysalins.
Figure 3: Comparison of the observed and designed projection maps of a crysalin.


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The authors thank R. Owen for AFM imaging, E. Valkov, R. Gilbert and members of the LMB, Oxford, for discussions, I. Sinclair for critical reading of the manuscript, and I. Taylor for technical support. The authors are also grateful to Oxford University and Crysalin Ltd for financial support.

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Authors and Affiliations



J.C.S. proposed the original design principle and performed bioinformatics analysis, molecular modelling, cloning of expression constructs, protein production and biophysical characterization, as well as assisting in recording and analysing electron micrographs. K.M.D. recorded the presented electron micrographs and carried out initial image analysis. C.V-B. managed the EM facility and supervised K.M.D. in her contribution. M.E.M.N. worked with J.C.S. to develop the original design, advised on the direction of the research and performed the image analysis presented in Fig. 3. J.C.S. and M.E.M.N. prepared the manuscript with critical comment from all authors.

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Correspondence to John C. Sinclair or Martin E. M. Noble.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Sinclair, J., Davies, K., Vénien-Bryan, C. et al. Generation of protein lattices by fusing proteins with matching rotational symmetry. Nature Nanotech 6, 558–562 (2011).

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