Protein Nanowires.

Title Protein Nanowires.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsLovley DR, Walker DJF
JournalFront Microbiol
Date Published2019

The study of electrically conductive protein nanowires in has led to new concepts for long-range extracellular electron transport, as well as for the development of sustainable conductive materials and electronic devices with novel functions. Until recently, electrically conductive pili (e-pili), assembled from the PilA pilin monomer, were the only known protein nanowires. However, filaments comprised of the multi-heme -type cytochrome, OmcS, are present in some preparations of outer-surface proteins. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the available evidence on the expression of e-pili and OmcS filaments and their biological function. Abundant literature demonstrates that expresses e-pili, which are required for long-range electron transport to Fe (III) oxides and through conductive biofilms. In contrast, there is no definitive evidence yet that wild-type express long filaments of OmcS extending from the cells, and deleting the gene for OmcS actually biofilm conductivity. The literature does not support the concern that many previous studies on e-pili were mistakenly studying OmcS filaments. For example, heterologous expression of the aromatic-rich pilin monomer of in increases the conductivity of individual nanowires more than 5,000-fold, whereas expression of an aromatic-poor pilin reduced conductivity more than 1,000-fold. This more than million-fold range in nanowire conductivity was achieved while maintaining the 3-nm diameter characteristic of e-pili. Purification methods that eliminate all traces of OmcS yield highly conductive e-pili, as does heterologous expression of the e-pilin monomer in microbes that do not produce OmcS or any other outer-surface cytochromes. Future studies of expression of protein nanowires need to be cognizant of the importance of maintaining environmentally relevant growth conditions because artificial laboratory culture conditions can rapidly select against e-pili expression. Principles derived from the study of e-pili have enabled identification of non-cytochrome protein nanowires in diverse bacteria and archaea. A similar search for cytochrome appendages is warranted. Both e-pili and OmcS filaments offer design options for the synthesis of protein-based "green" electronics, which may be the primary driving force for the study of these structures in the near future.

Alternate JournalFront Microbiol
PubMed ID31608018
PubMed Central IDPMC6771412