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: Self-replicating nanostructures made from DNA

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

Self-replicating nanostructures made from DNA

21 hours ago

(Phys.org)—Is it possible to engineer self-replicating nanomaterials? It could be if we borrow nature's building blocks. DNA is a self-replicating molecule where its component parts, nucleotides, have specific ...

Non-aqueous solvent supports DNA nanotechnology

May 27, 2015

Scientists around the world are using the programmability of DNA to assemble complex nanometer-scale structures. Until now, however, production of these artificial structures has been limited to water-based ...

Nanosilver and the future of antibiotics

May 27, 2015

Precious metals like silver and gold have biomedical properties that have been used for centuries, but how do these materials effectively combat the likes of cancer and bacteria without contaminating the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.