Bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) are composed of an enzymatic core encapsulated by a selectively permeable protein shell that enhances catalytic efficiency. Many pathogenic bacteria derive competitive advantages from their BMC-based catabolism, implicating BMCs as drug targets. BMC shells are of interest for bioengineering due to their diverse and selective permeability properties and because they self-assemble. A complete understanding of shell composition and organization is a prerequisite for biotechnological applications. Here, we report the cryoelectron microscopy structure of a BMC shell at 3.0-Å resolution, using an image-processing strategy that allowed us to determine the previously uncharacterized structural details of the interactions formed by the BMC-TS and BMC-TD shell subunits in the context of the assembled shell. We found unexpected structural plasticity among these interactions, resulting in distinct shell populations assembled from varying numbers of the BMC-TS and BMC-TD subunits. We discuss the implications of these findings on shell assembly and function.
Keywords: bacterial microcompartments; bioengineering; cryoelectron microscopy; metabolosome; microbiology; modular assembly; permeability; structural biology.
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