Advances in metabolic engineering have given rise to the biological production of novel fuels and chemicals, but yields are often low without significant optimization. One generalizable solution is to create a specialized organelle for the sequestration of engineered metabolic pathways. Bacterial microcompartments are an excellent scaffold for such an organelle. These compartments consist of a porous protein shell that encapsulates enzymes. To repurpose these structures, researchers have begun to determine how the protein shell is assembled, how pores may be used to control small molecule transport across the protein shell, and how to target heterologous enzymes to the compartment interior. With these advances, it will soon be possible to use engineered forms of these protein shells to create designer organelles.
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