Charge Transport across Proteins inside Proteins: Tunneling across Encapsulin Protein Cages and the Effect of Cargo Proteins

Riccardo Zinelli, Saurabh Soni, Jeroen J.L.M. Cornelissen, Sandra Michel-Souzy* (Corresponding Author), Christian A. Nijhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Charge transport across proteins can be surprisingly efficient over long distances—so-called long-range tunneling—but it is still unclear as to why and under which conditions (e.g., presence of co-factors, type of cargo) the long-range tunneling regime can be accessed. This paper describes molecular tunneling junctions based on an encapsulin (Enc), which is a large protein cage with a diameter of 24 nm that can be loaded with various types of (small) proteins, also referred to as “cargo”. We demonstrate with dynamic light scattering, transmission electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy that Enc, with and without cargo, can be made stable in solution and immobilized on metal electrodes without aggregation. We investigated the electronic properties of Enc in EGaIn-based tunnel junctions (EGaIn = eutectic alloy of Ga and In that is widely used to contact (bio)molecular monolayers) by measuring the current density for a large range of applied bias of ±2.5 V. The encapsulated cargo has an important effect on the electrical properties of the junctions. The measured current densities are higher for junctions with Enc loaded with redox-active cargo (ferritin-like protein) than those junctions without cargo or redox-inactive cargo (green fluorescent protein). These findings open the door to charge transport studies across complex biomolecular hierarchical structures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number174
JournalBiomolecules
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2023

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