Kerfeld Group

Subcellular Architecture:  Building Scaffolds and Compartments out of Protein 

Many kinds of bacteria contain specialized compartments that are used for internal organization—analogous to the different kinds of rooms in a home. The Kerfeld Research Group studies a family of these intracellular containers called Bacterial Microcompartments (BMCs). Built entirely from protein, the “walls” of BMCs—known as the shell—protect the catalytic machinery on the inside.  The shell is perforated by pores that selectively allow molecules to enter and exit the BMC. In a test tube, the shell proteins of BMCs can self-assemble into icosahedra from building blocks of two distinct shapes: hexagons and pentagons. 

The Kerfeld Research Group is using the shell proteins of BMCs to build specialized containers for ProteoCells. They will use naturally occurring and "designer" functionalized shell proteins to expand the repertoire of architectures that can be made from the hexagons and pentagons while at the same time uncovering design principles for predictive and scalable assembly. The Kerfeld Research Group looks forward to engaging with the public and with other scientists in exploring the potential for using these self-assembling building blocks to create nano- to micro-scale “factories” for ProteoCells.

Group Members

20 nm

What excites you to do "Science"?

“For myself, pursuing an honest question really excites me towards a career around Science. I would say a close second for me encompasses working with all the bright and exciting spectrum of individuals that you get to interact in the Scientific community; nothing like the feeling of the energy of a group of people passionately attacking a problem, together. “

Assembling Full BMC


A high-resolution (nearly atomic)

structure of a BMC shell composed of hexagons and pentagons


Gray = Major Hexagonal Unit

Orange = Minor Pentagonal Unit

Pink = Minor Hexagonal Unit

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