Protein oligomers are more common in nature than monomers, with dimers being the most prevalent final structural state observed in known structures. From a biological perspective, this makes sense as it conserves vital molecular resources that may be wasted simply by generating larger single polypeptide units, and allows new features such as cooperativity to emerge. Taking inspiration from nature, protein designers and engineers are now building artificial oligomeric complexes using a variety of approaches to generate new and useful supramolecular protein structures. Oligomerisation is thus offering a new approach to sample structure and function space not accessible through simply tinkering with monomeric proteins.
The single-molecule properties of metalloproteins have provided an intensely active research area in recent years. This brief review covers some of the techniques used to prepare, measure and analyse the electron transfer properties of metalloproteins, concentrating on scanning tunnelling microscopy-based techniques and advances in attachment of proteins to electrodes.
Introducing new physicochemical properties into proteins through genetically encoded Uaa (unnatural amino acid) incorporation can lead to the generation of proteins with novel properties not normally accessible with the 20 natural amino acids. Phenyl azide chemistry represents one such useful addition to the protein repertoire. Classically used in biochemistry as a non-specific photochemical protein cross-linker, genetically encoding phenyl azide chemistry at selected residues provides more powerful routes to post-translationally modify protein function in situ . The two main routes are modulation by light (optogenetics) and site-specific bio-orthogonal modification (bioconjugation) via Click chemistry. In the present article, we discuss both approaches and their influence on protein function.
Heteronuclear NMR spectroscopy and other experiments indicate that the true substrate of the E1 component of 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase complexes is not lipoic acid but the lipoyl domain of the E2 component. E1 can recognize the lipoyllysine residue as such, but reductive acylation ensues only if the domain to which the lipoyl group is attached is additionally recognized by virtue of a mosaic of contacts distributed chiefly over the half of the domain that contains the lipoyl-lysine residue. The lipoyl-lysine residue may not be freely swinging, as supposed hitherto, but may adopt a preferred orientation pointing towards a nearby loop on the surface of the lipoyl domain. This in turn may facilitate the insertion of the lipoyl group into the active site of E1, where reductive acylation is to occur. The results throw new light on the concept of substrate channelling and active-site coupling in these giant multifunctional catalytic machines.