Design and validation of a neutral protein scaffold for the presentation of peptide aptamers

J Mol Biol. 2005 Oct 7;352(5):1118-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2005.08.001.


Peptide aptamers are peptides constrained and presented by a scaffold protein that are used to study protein function in cells. They are able to disrupt protein-protein interactions and to constitute recognition modules that allow the creation of a molecular toolkit for the intracellular analysis of protein function. The success of peptide aptamer technology is critically dependent on the performance of the scaffold. Here, we describe a rational approach to the design of a new peptide aptamer scaffold. We outline the qualities that an ideal scaffold would need to possess to be broadly useful for in vitro and in vivo studies and apply these criteria to the design of a new scaffold, called STM. Starting from the small, stable intracellular protease inhibitor stefin A, we have engineered a biologically neutral scaffold that retains the stable conformation of the parent protein. We show that STM is able to present peptides that bind to targets of interest, both in the context of known interactors and in library screens. Molecular tools based on our scaffold are likely to be used in a wide range of studies of biological pathways, and in the validation of drug targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cystatin A
  • Cystatins / chemical synthesis*
  • Cystatins / metabolism
  • Drug Design
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis*
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Protein Engineering*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Thermodynamics


  • Cystatin A
  • Cystatins
  • Peptides
  • CSTA protein, human