A team of researchers led by Cheryl Kerfeld, faculty affiliate in the Environmental Genomics & Systems Biology (EGSB) Division, have developed a new method to manipulate miniature factories found in bacteria that could someday lead to new medical, industrial, or energy applications. The factories, called bacterial microcompartments–or BMCs–are found in bacteria all over the world.
While flexible in variety and function, the factories can be tough to work with in the lab. In a recent study published in ACS Nano Letters, the researchers describe their new method for building the BMCs in test tubes, allowing for high levels of control (see overview in GIF below). Once made, they can change the electric charge on the inside of the factory walls (or shells of the BMCs) to attract desired cargo. The resulting custom factories can perform new functions, like producing renewable materials, such as biofuels, plastic, or rubber, or be used in various medical applications like disease targeting and imaging.
Cheryl Kerfeld has a secondary appointment in the Molecular Biophysics & Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) Division, and is also the Hannah Distinguished Professor Of Structural Bioengineering in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University. The team of researchers includes EGSB and MBIB’s Andrew Hagen, postdoctoral scholar and first author on this study, and Nancy Sloan, research assistant, as well as Jefferson Plegaria, Bryan Ferlez, Clement Aussignargues, and Rodney Burton from MSU. Read more in the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory news article.