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Computational design of transmembrane pores.

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Gamal El-Din, Tamer M 
Pei, Xue Y 
Johnson, Matthew C 


Transmembrane channels and pores have key roles in fundamental biological processes1 and in biotechnological applications such as DNA nanopore sequencing2-4, resulting in considerable interest in the design of pore-containing proteins. Synthetic amphiphilic peptides have been found to form ion channels5,6, and there have been recent advances in de novo membrane protein design7,8 and in redesigning naturally occurring channel-containing proteins9,10. However, the de novo design of stable, well-defined transmembrane protein pores that are capable of conducting ions selectively or are large enough to enable the passage of small-molecule fluorophores remains an outstanding challenge11,12. Here we report the computational design of protein pores formed by two concentric rings of α-helices that are stable and monodisperse in both their water-soluble and their transmembrane forms. Crystal structures of the water-soluble forms of a 12-helical pore and a 16-helical pore closely match the computational design models. Patch-clamp electrophysiology experiments show that, when expressed in insect cells, the transmembrane form of the 12-helix pore enables the passage of ions across the membrane with high selectivity for potassium over sodium; ion passage is blocked by specific chemical modification at the pore entrance. When incorporated into liposomes using in vitro protein synthesis, the transmembrane form of the 16-helix pore-but not the 12-helix pore-enables the passage of biotinylated Alexa Fluor 488. A cryo-electron microscopy structure of the 16-helix transmembrane pore closely matches the design model. The ability to produce structurally and functionally well-defined transmembrane pores opens the door to the creation of designer channels and pores for a wide variety of applications.



Cell Line, Computer Simulation, Cryoelectron Microscopy, Crystallography, X-Ray, Electric Conductivity, Escherichia coli, Genes, Synthetic, Hydrazines, Ion Channels, Ion Transport, Liposomes, Models, Molecular, Patch-Clamp Techniques, Porins, Protein Engineering, Protein Structure, Secondary, Solubility, Synthetic Biology, Water

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC


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Wellcome Trust (200873/Z/16/Z)