Pore dynamics and asymmetric cargo loading in an encapsulin nanocompartment

Sci Adv. 2022 Jan 28;8(4):eabj4461. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abj4461. Epub 2022 Jan 26.


Encapsulins are protein nanocompartments that house various cargo enzymes, including a family of decameric ferritin-like proteins. Here, we study a recombinant Haliangium ochraceum encapsulin:encapsulated ferritin complex using cryo-electron microscopy and hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry to gain insight into the structural relationship between the encapsulin shell and its protein cargo. An asymmetric single-particle reconstruction reveals four encapsulated ferritin decamers in a tetrahedral arrangement within the encapsulin nanocompartment. This leads to a symmetry mismatch between the protein cargo and the icosahedral encapsulin shell. The encapsulated ferritin decamers are offset from the interior face of the encapsulin shell. Using hydrogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry, we observed the dynamic behavior of the major fivefold pore in the encapsulin shell and show the pore opening via the movement of the encapsulin A-domain. These data will accelerate efforts to engineer the encapsulation of heterologous cargo proteins and to alter the permeability of the encapsulin shell via pore modifications.