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Open Access Research

Molecular understanding of sterically controlled compound release through an engineered channel protein (FhuA)

Arcan Güven12, Marco Fioroni2, Bernhard Hauer3 and Ulrich Schwaneberg2*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Engineering and Science, Jacobs University Bremen, Campus Ring 1, 28759 Bremen, Germany

2 Lehrstuhl für Biotechnologie, RWTH Aachen University, Worringerweg 1, 52074, Aachen, Germany

3 Institut für Technische Biochemie, Universität Stuttgart, Allmandring 31, D-70569 Stuttgart, Germany

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Journal of Nanobiotechnology 2010, 8:14  doi:10.1186/1477-3155-8-14

Published: 25 June 2010



Recently we reported a nanocontainer based reduction triggered release system through an engineered transmembrane channel (FhuA Δ1-160; Onaca et al., 2008). Compound fluxes within the FhuA Δ1-160 channel protein are controlled sterically through labeled lysine residues (label: 3-(2-pyridyldithio)propionic-acid-N-hydroxysuccinimide-ester). Quantifying the sterical contribution of each labeled lysine would open up an opportunity for designing compound specific drug release systems.


In total, 12 FhuA Δ1-160 variants were generated to gain insights on sterically controlled compound fluxes: Subset A) six FhuA Δ1-160 variants in which one of the six lysines in the interior of FhuA Δ1-160 was substituted to alanine and Subset B) six FhuA Δ1-160 variants in which only one lysine inside the barrel was not changed to alanine. Translocation efficiencies were quantified with the colorimetric TMB (3,3',5,5'-tetramethylbenzidine) detection system employing horseradish peroxidase (HRP). Investigation of the six subset A variants identified position K556A as sterically important. The K556A substitution increases TMB diffusion from 15 to 97 [nM]/s and reaches nearly the TMB diffusion value of the unlabeled FhuA Δ1-160 (102 [nM]/s). The prominent role of position K556 is confirmed by the corresponding subset B variant which contains only the K556 lysine in the interior of the barrel. Pyridyl labeling of K556 reduces TMB translocation to 16 [nM]/s reaching nearly background levels in liposomes (13 [nM]/s). A first B-factor analysis based on MD simulations confirmed that position K556 is the least fluctuating lysine among the six in the channel interior of FhuA Δ1-160 and therefore well suited for controlling compound fluxes through steric hindrance.


A FhuA Δ1-160 based reduction triggered release system has been shown to control the compound flux by the presence of only one inner channel sterical hindrance based on 3-(2-pyridyldithio)propionic-acid labeling (amino acid position K556). As a consequence, the release kinetic can be modulated by introducing an opportune number of hindrances. The FhuA Δ1-160 channel embedded in liposomes can be advanced to a universal and compound independent release system which allows a size selective compound release through rationally re-engineered channels.