An assembly funnel makes biomolecular complex assembly efficient

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Abstract

Like protein folding and crystallization, the self-assembly of complexes is a fundamental form of biomolecular organization. While the number of methods for creating synthetic complexes is growing rapidly, most require empirical tuning of assembly conditions and/or produce low yields. We use coarse-grained simulations of the assembly kinetics of complexes to identify generic limitations on yields that arise because of the many simultaneous interactions allowed between the components and intermediates of a complex. Efficient assembly occurs when nucleation is fast and growth pathways are few, i.e. when there is an assembly "funnel". For typical complexes, an assembly funnel occurs in a narrow window of conditions whose location is highly complex specific. However, by redesigning the components this window can be drastically broadened, so that complexes can form quickly across many conditions. The generality of this approach suggests assembly funnel design as a foundational strategy for robust biomolecular complex synthesis.

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Zenk, J., & Schulman, R. (2014). An assembly funnel makes biomolecular complex assembly efficient. PLoS ONE, 9(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111233

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