Many bacterial species contain intracellular nano- and micro-compartments consisting of self-assembling proteins that form protein-only shells. These structures are built up by combinations of a reduced number of repeated elements, from 60 repeated copies of one unique structural element self-assembled in encapsulins of 24 nm to 10,000-20,000 copies of a few protein species assembled in a organelle of around 100-150 nm in cross-section. However, this apparent simplicity does not correspond to the structural and functional sophistication of some of these organelles. They package, by not yet definitely solved mechanisms, one or more enzymes involved in specific metabolic pathways, confining such reactions and sequestering or increasing the inner concentration of unstable, toxics or volatile intermediate metabolites. From a biotechnological point of view, we can use the self assembling properties of these particles for directing shell assembling and enzyme packaging, mimicking nature to design new applications in biotechnology. Upon appropriate engineering of the building blocks, they could act as a new family of self-assembled, protein-based vehicles in Nanomedicine to encapsulate, target and deliver therapeutic cargoes to specific cell types and/or tissues. This would provide a new, intriguing platform of microbial origin for drug delivery. © 2011 Corchero and Cedano; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
- Protein delivery
- Self-assembling proteins