Protein nanocompartments (PNCs) have the ability to encapsulate, deliver and help integrate cargos into various systems. Using PNCs with targeting abilities through the use of surface peptides not only makes delivery of cargos more specific but also increases efficiency. This can also limit off targeting effects that may come with cargos such as therapeutics. Therefore, due to its simple use and broad applicability, PNCs are a valuable tool not only for future iGEM teams but for the scientific community as well.
Our goal for the 2018 iGEM season is to create a PNC toolkit for future iGEM teams. With these designs we can address a wide range of issues such as antibiotic resistance, the negative side-effects of chemotherapeutics, or the impact of using GMOs as biological control agents. One problem that we are focusing on is the presence of the invasive zebra and quagga mussels in bodies of water. We plan to build on the use of the sequencing technologies we used for our 2016 project to detect the presence of the mussels in water and then to use the P22 capsid with the toxin FitD to prevent further spread of the mussels. We will also be using the viral capsids MS2 and Arc Gag to demonstrate the efficacy of our design for small molecule transport and cell culture transfection, respectively. We plan on engaging stakeholders in the environmental and health care fields in addition to scientific researchers to ensure that our project is able to meet the needs of multiple user groups.
We are also developing a software tool to help individuals build PNCs that cater to their specific project needs. The software will allow the user to input components such as surface peptides, encapsulation proteins and specific cargo loading approaches that can be used for various applications. We recognize the opportunity for misuse of the proposed software that enables users to design their own targeting PNCs.To mitigate these implications, we will integrate an automated fail-safe into our software whereby the system determines if the cargo designed for the PNC is homologous to known dangerous sequences. In the current climate of biosafety regulations, we hope to encourage a sense of responsibility amongst potential users and promote the adoption of simple biosecurity measures wherever possible.