Bacterial microcompartments enclose a biochemical pathway and reactive intermediate within a protein envelope formed by the shell proteins. Herein, the orientation of the propanediol-utilization (Pdu) microcompartment shell protein PduA in bacterial microcompartments and in synthetic nanotubes, and the orientation of PduB in synthetic nanotubes are revealed. When produced individually, PduA hexamers and PduB trimers, tessellate to form flat sheets in the crystal, or they can self-assemble to form synthetic protein nanotubes in solution. Modelling the orientation of PduA in the 20 nm nanotube so as to preserve the shape complementarity and key interactions seen in the crystal structure suggests that the concave surface of the PduA hexamer faces out. This orientation is confirmed experimentally in synthetic nanotubes and in the bacterial microcompartment produced in vivo. The PduB nanotubes described here have a larger diameter, 63 nm, with the concave surface of the trimer again facing out. The conserved concave surface out characteristic of these nano-structures reveals a generic assembly process that causes the interface between adjacent subunits to bend in a common direction that optimizes shape complementarity and minimizes steric clashes. This understanding underpins engineering strategies for the biotechnological application of protein nanotubes.
- bacterial microcompartment shell proteins
- protein nanotubes
- transmission electron microscopy