Evidence for Improved Encapsulated Pathway Behavior in a Bacterial Microcompartment through Shell Protein Engineering

Marilyn F. Slininger Lee, Christopher M. Jakobson, Danielle Tullman-Ercek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Bacterial microcompartments are a class of proteinaceous organelles comprising a characteristic protein shell enclosing a set of enzymes. Compartmentalization can prevent escape of volatile or toxic intermediates, prevent off-pathway reactions, and create private cofactor pools. Encapsulation in synthetic microcompartment organelles will enhance the function of heterologous pathways, but to do so, it is critical to understand how to control diffusion in and out of the microcompartment organelle. To this end, we explored how small differences in the shell protein structure result in changes in the diffusion of metabolites through the shell. We found that the ethanolamine utilization (Eut) protein EutM properly incorporates into the 1,2-propanediol utilization (Pdu) microcompartment, altering native metabolite accumulation and the resulting growth on 1,2-propanediol as the sole carbon source. Further, we identified a single pore-lining residue mutation that confers the same phenotype as substitution of the full EutM protein, indicating that small molecule diffusion through the shell is the cause of growth enhancement. Finally, we show that the hydropathy index and charge of pore amino acids are important indicators to predict how pore mutations will affect growth on 1,2-propanediol, likely by controlling diffusion of one or more metabolites. This study highlights the use of two strategies to engineer microcompartments to control metabolite transport: altering the existing shell protein pore via mutation of the pore-lining residues, and generating chimeras using shell proteins with the desired pores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1880-1891
Number of pages12
JournalACS synthetic biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 20 2017


  • 1,2-propanediol
  • Bacterial microcompartment
  • Salmonella enterica
  • metabolosome
  • protein pore diffusion
  • protein shell assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


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