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Carboxysomes are a paradigm of self-assembling proteinaceous organelles found in nature, offering compartmentalisation of enzymes and pathways to enhance carbon fixation. In α-carboxysomes, the disordered linker protein CsoS2 plays an essential role in carboxysome assembly and Rubisco encapsulation. Its mechanism of action, however, is not fully understood. Here we synthetically engineer α-carboxysome shells using minimal shell components and determine cryoEM structures of these to decipher the principle of shell assembly and encapsulation. The structures reveal that the intrinsically disordered CsoS2 C-terminus is well-structured and acts as a universal "molecular thread" stitching through multiple shell protein interfaces. We further uncover in CsoS2 a highly conserved repetitive key interaction motif, [IV]TG, which is critical to the shell assembly and architecture. Our study provides a general mechanism for the CsoS2-governed carboxysome shell assembly and cargo encapsulation and further advances synthetic engineering of carboxysomes for diverse biotechnological applications.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature communications

Publication Date





Division of Structural Biology, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 7BN, UK.


Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase, Cryoelectron Microscopy, Biotechnology, Engineering, Software