Solubilising Insoluble Proteins using Self-Assembling Supramolecular Structures

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry


Protein insolubility is a common problem for researchers working with isolated proteins that, due to hydrophobic patches on their surface, misfold and/or aggregate outside of their natural environment. The resulting insoluble materials are frequently hard (if not impossible) to characterise, and often do not display the useful and interesting properties researchers set out to explore. Methodologies that transform insoluble proteins into soluble species are therefore highly sought after as they may allow characterisation of novel proteins, or stabilise enzymes sufficiently for their catalytic function to be harnessed in abiological environments, for example in chemical manufacturing or bioremediation applications.

One rational approach to overcoming the solubility challenges associated with hydrophobic proteins is encapsulation of individual proteins within water-soluble capsules that have hydrophobic cavities. Such a 'stealth coating' will support the natural tendency of the protein to expose its hydrophobic residues on its surface while at the same time bringing the protein into solution enabling further study or application of the enzyme in aqueous environments. In recent years significant advances have been made in developing supramolecular structures with hydrophobic cavities that are able to accommodate a range of guest molecules including biomolecules.1,2 We propose investigating the encapsulation of silicatein,3 an industrially relevant enzyme with poor solubility, within self-assembling metal-organic materials. Following encapsulation the activity of the enzyme will be assessed and attempted characterisation of the structure, which has yet to be elucidated, will be undertaken.

The student appointed to this position will work on an exciting interdisciplinary project at the boundary of materials chemistry and biochemistry and will be fully trained in protein expression and purification techniques, chemical synthesis, NMR analysis, optical spectroscopy and PXRD as well as receiving high level training in mass spectrometry.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T008725/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2028
2628326 Studentship BB/T008725/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2025 Tongtong Zhang