Mother Nature’s Lego Collection: Unfinished illustration of cellulose degrading polycellulosomes

Just Science

It is amazing, to me anyways, how much we borrow from Mother Nature. Legos are no different. These small pieces of plastic that can be connected with infinite possibilities have stirred the imagination of children and adults alike.

There is a perfect example of Nature’s Lego set within the genomes of microorganisms that degrade plant matter using large protein complexes called cellulosomes (see this post). Clostridium thermocellum is a model organism for this.

Thanks to its ability to interchange components, both the enzymes to degrade cellulose and the protein scaffold to attach these enzymes, C. thermocellum can optimize degradation any different sources of plant material. Shown in the my illustration above is only one assembly. The cellulosomes illustrated are of the actual protein structures (or models if no structure known) of the components. Essentially, there is one scaffold protein, OlpB, which can have up to 7 other scaffold proteins…

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