Coiled coil protein origami: from modular design principles towards biotechnological applications
The design of new protein folds represents a grand challenge for synthetic, chemical and structural biology. Due to the good understanding of the principles governing its pairing specificity, coiled coil (CC) peptide secondary structure elements can be exploited for the construction of modular protein assemblies acting as a proxy for the straightforward complementarity of DNA modules. The prerequisite for the successful translation of the modular assembly strategy pioneered by DNA nanotechnology to protein design is the availability of orthogonal building modules: a collection of peptides that assemble into CCs only with their predetermined partners. Modular CC-based protein structures can self-assemble from multiple polypeptide chains whose pairing is determined by the interaction pattern of the constituent building blocks. Orthogonal CC sets can however also be used for the design of more complex coiled coil protein origami (CCPO) structures. CCPOs are based on multiple CC modules concatenated into a single polypeptide chain that folds into a polyhedral protein cage as the peptide segments assemble into CC dimers. The CCPO strategy has hitherto led to successful de novo design of protein cages in the shape of a tetrahedron, square pyramid and triangular prism. Recent advances in the design of CC modules and design principles have enabled the construction of CCPOs that self-assemble in vivo without any apparent toxicity to human cells or animals, opening the path towards therapeutic applications. The CCPO platform therefore has potential for diverse applications in biomedicine and biotechnology, from drug delivery to molecular cages.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Peptide and protein nanotechnology