Use of the confined spaces of apo-ferritin and virus capsids as nanoreactors for catalytic reactions

Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2015 Apr;25:88-97. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2014.12.026. Epub 2015 Jan 8.


Self-assembled protein cages providing nanosized internal spaces which are capable of encapsulating metal ions/complexes, enzymes/proteins have great potential for use as catalytic nanoreactors in efforts to mimic confined cellular environments for synthetic applications. Despite many uses in biomineralization, drug delivery, bio-imaging and so on, applications in catalysis are relatively rare. Because of their restricted size, protein cages are excellent candidates for use as vessels to exert control over reaction kinetics and product selectivity. Virus capsids with larger internal spaces can encapsulate multiple enzymes and can mimic natural enzymatic reactions. The apo-ferritin cage is known to accommodate various metal ions/complexes and suitable for organic transformation reactions in an aqueous medium. This review highlights the importance, prospects and recent significant research on catalytic reactions using the apo-ferritin cage and virus capsids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoproteins / chemistry*
  • Capsid / chemistry*
  • Catalysis
  • Ferritins / chemistry*
  • Nanostructures / chemistry
  • Nanotechnology / methods*


  • Apoproteins
  • Ferritins