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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2017 Oct 2;364(18). doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnx176.

Carboxysomes: metabolic modules for CO2 fixation.

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MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Biology Division, B-11, Bioenergy and Biome Sciences Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lost Alamos, NM 87545, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


The carboxysome is a bacterial microcompartment encapsulating the enzymes carbonic anhydrase and ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase. As the site of CO2 fixation, it serves an essential role in the carbon dioxide concentrating mechanism of many chemoautotrophs and all cyanobacteria. Carboxysomes and other bacterial microcompartments self-assemble through specific protein-protein interactions that are typically mediated by conserved protein domains. In this review, we frame our current understanding of carboxysomes in the context of their component protein domains with their inherent function as the 'building blocks' of carboxysomes. These building blocks are organized in genetic modules (conserved chromosomal loci) that encode for carboxysomes and ancillary proteins essential for the integration of the organelle with the rest of cellular metabolism. This conceptual framework provides the foundation for 'plug-and-play' engineering of carboxysomes as CO2 fixation modules in a variety of biotechnological applications.


carbon fixation; carboxysome; cyanobacteria; modularity; protein domains; synthetic biology

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