Bacterial microcompartments as metabolic modules for plant synthetic biology

Authors

  • C. Raul Gonzalez-Esquer,

    1. MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
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  • Sarah E. Newnham,

    1. MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
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  • Cheryl A. Kerfeld

    Corresponding author
    1. MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
    2. Physical Biosciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA
    3. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
    4. Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
    5. Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
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Summary

Bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) are megadalton-sized protein assemblies that enclose segments of metabolic pathways within cells. They increase the catalytic efficiency of the encapsulated enzymes while sequestering volatile or toxic intermediates from the bulk cytosol. The first BMCs discovered were the carboxysomes of cyanobacteria. Carboxysomes compartmentalize the enzyme ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO) with carbonic anhydrase. They enhance the carboxylase activity of RuBisCO by increasing the local concentration of CO2 in the vicinity of the enzyme's active site. As a metabolic module for carbon fixation, carboxysomes could be transferred to eukaryotic organisms (e.g. plants) to increase photosynthetic efficiency. Within the scope of synthetic biology, carboxysomes and other BMCs hold even greater potential when considered a source of building blocks for the development of nanoreactors or three-dimensional scaffolds to increase the efficiency of either native or heterologously expressed enzymes. The carboxysome serves as an ideal model system for testing approaches to engineering BMCs because their expression in cyanobacteria provides a sensitive screen for form (appearance of polyhedral bodies) and function (ability to grow on air). We recount recent progress in the re-engineering of the carboxysome shell and core to offer a conceptual framework for the development of BMC-based architectures for applications in plant synthetic biology.

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