Molecular Superglues: Discovery and Engineering Orthogonalization

Methods Mol Biol. 2020;2073:85-99. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-9869-2_6.


Molecular superglues covalently ligate two or more macromolecules together into super stable, covalently linked assemblies. The discovery of intramolecular isopeptide and ester bond crosslinks in bacterial adhesin proteins, inspired the development of two distinct protein ligating technologies based on split protein domains. These chemically distinct technologies could be combined as orthogonal (non-cross-reacting) technologies to make complex assemblies. Here we provide simple practical instructions in the discovery, characterisation, and application of orthogonal ester bond crosslinks as molecular superglues. A large toolkit of diverse, orthogonal molecular superglues will expand our assembly repertoire, and afford increasingly more complex one-, two-, and three-dimensional protein nanomaterials with exquisite control over the final molecular architecture.

Keywords: Bacterial adhesin; Molecular superglue; Orthogonal assembly; Protein nanomaterial; Split domain.

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nanostructures / chemistry
  • Protein Domains


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins