Building molecular 'cages' to fight disease

Jul 05, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a computational approach to designing specialized proteins that assemble themselves to form nanoparticle cages that can be used to deliver drugs to tumors and other sites of disease. Published in the journal Science, this research could be utilized to create nanoparticle cages from any number of different proteins, with potential applications across the fields of medicine and molecular biology.

UCLA investigator David Yeates led this study. He and his colleagues used computer models to identify two proteins that could be combined to form perfectly-shaped three-dimensional puzzle pieces. Twelve of these specialized pieces fit together to create a molecular cage a mere fraction of the size of a virus.

The specifically designed proteins intermesh to form a hollow lattice that could act as a vessel for drug delivery. In principle, it would be possible to attach a recognition sequence for on the outside of the cage together with a . As currently designed, the assembled protein cages are porous enough that a drug placed inside would likely leak out during the delivery process. The investigators are now conducting computer modeling studies to design a new molecular cage with an interior that will be better sealed.

In a second paper that was also published in Science, Dr. Yeates and University of Washington colleague David Baker describe how they created similarly designed molecular cages using multiple copies of the same protein as building blocks. The scientists control the shape of the cage by computing the sequence of amino acids necessary to link the proteins together at the correct angles. This alternative method represents a more versatile approach in theory because it requires only one type of protein to form a structure, Dr. Yeates said.

This work is described in two papers titled, "Structure of a 16-nm cage designed by using protein oligomers," and "Computational design of self-assembling protein nanomaterials with atomic level accuracy." Abstracts of these papers are available at the journal's website.

Explore further: Relaxing DNA strands by using nano-channels

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Protein Cage Helps Nanoparticles Target Tumors

Jan 17, 2007

Researchers at Montana State University have used an engineered form of ferritin, a cage-like iron storage protein, to both synthesize and deliver iron oxide nanoparticles to tumors. The investigators, led by Trevor Douglas, ...

DNA cages 'can survive inside living cells'

Jul 04, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at Oxford University have shown for the first time that molecular cages made from DNA can enter and survive inside living cells.

Recommended for you

Cut flowers last longer with silver nanotechnology

7 hours ago

Once cut and dunked in a vase of water, flowers are susceptible to bacterial growth that shortens the length of time one has to enjoy the blooms. A few silver nanoparticles sprinkled into the water, might be the answer to ...

Relaxing DNA strands by using nano-channels

Aug 20, 2014

A simple and effective way of unravelling the often tangled mass of DNA is to 'thread' the strand into a nano-channel. A study carried out with the participation of the International School for Advanced Studies ...

Сalculations with nanoscale smart particles

Aug 19, 2014

Researchers from the Institute of General Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences and MIPT have made an important step towards ...

Attack Ebola on a nanoscale

Aug 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 900 lives since February and has infected thousands more. Countries such as Nigeria and Liberia have declared health emergencies, ...

User comments : 0