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Geometry Meets Biology: Expanding the Protein-Cage Library

Researchers at Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology (MCB), Jagiellonian University recently published work looking at the mathematics of artificial protein cages. Usually these hollow, nanoscale objects are made as simple convex polyhedra using standard protein building blocks that are simple shapes such as pentagons and hexagons. The team at the Bionanoscience and Biochemistry Laboratory, working with Bernard Piette at the Department of Mathematical Sciences at University of Durham, UK showed that more unusual protein building blocks (e.g. hendecagons, heptagons) can be used and still result in cages that appear regular to the naked eye. This widens the range of potential proteins that can be used and therefore the space thus increasing the diversity and properties of the resulting cages. These may be useful in many areas such as drug delivery, vaccines and novel materials. 

The work appeared in Proceedings of the Royal Society A:

Image shows the structure of an artificial protein cage ( which the team used as an inspiration for the new work.
























Image credit: Jonathan G. Heddle