Bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) are protein-based polyhedral organelles which serve to encapsulate and organize enzymes involved in key metabolic pathways. The sequestration of these pathways not only improves the overall reaction efficiency; it can also harbor toxic or volatile pathway intermediates, which would otherwise be detrimental to the cell. Genomic and phylogenetic analyses reveal the presence of these unique organelles in a diverse range of bacterial species, highlighting their evolutionary importance and the essential role that they play in bacterial cell survival. Functional and structural analyses of BMCs involved in ethanolamine utilization are developing our understanding of the self-assembly and encapsulation mechanisms employed by these protein supercomplexes. This knowledge will open up exciting new avenues of research with a range of potential engineering and biotechnological applications.
Copyright © 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel.