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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1997 Jun;20(1-2):151-75.

Applications of S-layers.

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Zentrum für Ultrastrukturforschung, Universität für Bodenkultur, Vienna, Austria.


The wealth of information existing on the general principle of S-layers has revealed a broad application potential. The most relevant features exploited in applied S-layer research are: (i) pores passing through S-layers show identical size and morphology and are in the range of ultrafiltration membranes; (ii) functional groups on the surface and in the pores are aligned in well-defined positions and orientations and accessible for binding functional molecules in very precise fashion; (iii) isolated S-layer subunits from many organisms are capable of recrystallizing as closed monolayers onto solid supports at the air-water interface, on lipid monolayers or onto the surface of liposomes. Particularly their repetitive physicochemical properties down to the subnanometer scale make S-layers unique structures for functionalization of surfaces and interfaces down to the ultimate resolution limit. The following review focuses on selected applications in biotechnology, diagnostics, vaccine development, biomimetic membranes, supramolecular engineering and nanotechnology. Despite progress in the characterization of S-layers and the exploitation of S-layers for the applications described in this chapter, it is clear that the field lags behind others (e.g. enzyme engineering) in applying recent advances in protein engineering. Genetic modification and targeted chemical modification would allow several possibilities including the manipulation of pore permeation properties, the introduction of switches to open and close the pores, and the covalent attachment to surfaces or other macromolecules through defined sites on the S-layer protein. The application of protein engineering to S-layers will require the development of straightforward expression systems, the development of simple assays for assembly and function that are suitable for the rapid screening of numerous mutants and the acquisition of structural information at atomic resolution. Attention should be given to these areas in the coming years.

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