Modeling the Self Assembly of the Cellulosome Enzyme Complex

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Most bacteria use free enzymes to degrade plant cell walls in nature. However, some bacteria have adopted a different strategy wherein enzymes can either be free or tethered on a protein scaffold forming a complex called a cellulosome. The study of the structure and mechanism of these large macromolecular complexes is an active and ongoing research topic, with the goal of finding ways to improve biomass conversion using cellulosomes. Several mechanisms involved in cellulosome formation remain unknown, including how cellulosomal enzymes assemble on the scaffoldin and what governs the population of cellulosomes created during self-assembly. Here, we present a coarse-grained model to study the self-assembly of cellulosomes. The model captures most of the physical characteristics of three cellulosomal enzymes (Cel5B, CelS, and CbhA) and the scaffoldin (CipA) from Clostridium thermocellum. The protein structures are represented by beads connected by restraints to mimic the flexibility and shapes of these proteins. From a large simulation set, the assembly of cellulosomal enzyme complexes is shown to be dominated by their shape and modularity. The multimodular enzyme, CbhA, binds statistically more frequently to the scaffoldin than CelS or Cel5B. The enhanced binding is attributed to the flexible nature and multimodularity of this enzyme, providing a longer residence time around the scaffoldin. The characterization of the factors influencing the cellulosome assembly process may enable new strategies to create designers cellulosomes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5614-5623
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-50085


  • biomas conversion
  • cellulosomes


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