Type-III secretion filaments as scaffolds for inorganic nanostructures

Anum Azam, Danielle Tullman-Ercek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Nanostructured materials exhibit unique magnetic, electrical and catalytic properties. These characteristics are determined by the chemical composition, size and shape of the nanostructured components, which are challenging to modulate on such small size scales and to interface with living cells. To address this problem, we are using a self-assembling filament protein, PrgI, as a scaffold for bottom-up inorganic nanostructure synthesis. PrgI is a small protein (80 amino acids) that oligomerizes to form the type-III secretion system needle of Salmonella enterica. We demonstrate that purified PrgI monomers also spontaneously self-assemble into long filaments and that high-affinity peptide tags specific for attachment to functionalized particles can be integrated into the N-terminal region of PrgI. The resulting filaments selectively bind to gold, whether the filaments are assembled in vitro, sheared from cells or remain attached to live S. enterica cell membranes. Chemical reduction of the goldmodified PrgI variants results in structures that are several micrometres in length and which incorporate a contiguous gold surface. Mutant strains with genomically incorporated metal-binding tags retain the secretion phenotype. We anticipate that self-assembled, cell-tethered protein/metal filamentous structures have applications in sensing and energy transduction in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20150938
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number114
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Biomineralization
  • Microbial electrocatalysis
  • Nanostructures
  • Self-assembly
  • Type-III secretion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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