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Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2002 Jun;3(2):99-115.

Pore-forming proteins and their application in biotechnology.

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SAIC Frederick, MD 21702, USA.

Erratum in

  • Curr Pharm Biotechnol 2002 Sep;3(3):following 283.


Proteins and peptides that form membrane-spanning pores and channels comprise a diverse class of molecules ranging from short peptides that are unregulated and create non-selective pathways to large ion channel proteins that are highly regulated and exhibit exquisite selectivity for particular ions. The diversity of regulation and selectivity, together with recent advances in protein "re-engineering" technology, provide a strong framework on which to build custom molecules with wide-ranging biotechnological application. Here we review a selection of pore-forming peptides and proteins from a number of different species to highlight their structural and functional diversity. The current and potential uses of native and re-engineered molecules are discussed together with a novel strategy to re-engineer alpha-hemolysin to create targeted and regulable cell-killing agents termed proimmunolysins. Numerous pore-forming peptides are currently in development as antimicrobial agents with potential application as anti-tumorigenic agents. In addition to their roles as biotherapeutic agents, pore-forming proteins are also being developed as biosensors for a range of different analytes. Recent examples of this technology include the use of alpha-hemolysin with an adapter molecule to create sensors for organic molecules and gramicidin as a general-purpose sensor for a range of analytes. These approaches promise to deliver a configurable binding site for analytes encoded in a readily measured electrical signal. The number of applications for pore-forming molecules is sure to grow in both quantity and diversity with increased knowledge of the fundamental structure and function of pores.

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