The effects of time, temperature, and pH on the stability of PDU bacterial microcompartments

Edward Y. Kim, Marilyn F. Slininger, Danielle Tullman-Ercek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Bacterial microcompartments (MCPs) are subcellular organelles that are composed of a protein shell and encapsulated metabolic enzymes. It has been suggested that MCPs can be engineered to encapsulate protein cargo for use as in vivo nanobioreactors or carriers for drug delivery. Understanding the stability of the MCP shell is critical for such applications. Here, we investigate the integrity of the propanediol utilization (Pdu) MCP shell of Salmonella enterica over time, in buffers with various pH, and at elevated temperatures. The results show that MCPs are remarkably stable. When stored at 4C or at room temperature, Pdu MCPs retain their structure for several days, both in vivo and in vitro. Furthermore, Pdu MCPs can tolerate temperatures up to 60C without apparent structural degradation. MCPs are, however, sensitive to pH and require conditions between pH 6 and pH 10. In nonoptimal conditions, MCPs form aggregates. However, within the aggregated protein mass, MCPs often retain their polyhedral outlines. These results show that MCPs are highly robust, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1434-1441
Number of pages8
JournalProtein Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • bacterial microcompartments
  • microcompartment stability
  • propanediol utilization
  • protein encapsulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry


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