The construction of artificial membrane proteins from first principles is of fundamental interest and holds considerable promise for new biotechnologies. This review considers the potential advantages of adopting a strictly minimalist approach to the process of membrane protein design. As well as the practical benefits of miniaturisation and simplicity for understanding sequence-structure-function relationships, minimalism should also support the abstract conceptualisation of membrane proteins as modular components for synthetic biology. These ideas are illustrated with selected examples that focus upon α-helical membrane proteins, and which demonstrate how such minimalist membrane proteins might be integrated into living biosystems.
Integral membrane proteins are important biological macromolecules with structural features and functionalities that make them attractive targets for nanotechnology. I provide here a broad review of current activity in nanotechnology related to membrane proteins, including their application as nanoscale sensors, switches, components of optical devices and as templates for self-assembled arrays.