Expression, purification, and reconstitution of a diatom silicon transporter

Paul Curnow, Laura Senior, Michael J Knight, Kimberlee Thamatrakoln, Mark Hildebrand, Paula J Booth
Biochemistry 2012 May 8, 51 (18): 3776-85
The synthesis and manipulation of silicon materials on the nanoscale are core themes in nanotechnology research. Inspiration is increasingly being taken from the natural world because the biological mineralization of silicon results in precisely controlled, complex silica structures with dimensions from the millimeter to the nanometer. One fascinating example of silicon biomineralization occurs in the diatoms, unicellular algae that sheath themselves in an ornate silica-based cell wall. To harvest silicon from the environment, diatoms have developed a unique family of integral membrane proteins that bind to a soluble form of silica, silicic acid, and transport it across the cell membrane to the cell interior. These are the first proteins shown to directly interact with silicon, but the current understanding of these specific silicon transport proteins is limited by the lack of in vitro studies of structure and function. We report here the recombinant expression, purification, and reconstitution of a silicon transporter from the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana. After using GFP fusions to optimize expression and purification protocols, a His(10)-tagged construct was expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, solubilized in the detergent Fos-choline-12, and purified by affinity chromatography. Size-exclusion chromatography and particle sizing by dynamic light scattering showed that the protein was purified as a homotetramer, although nonspecific oligomerization occurred at high protein concentrations. Circular dichroism measurements confirmed sequence-based predictions that silicon transporters are α-helical membrane proteins. Silicic acid transport could be established in reconstituted proteoliposomes, and silicon uptake was found to be dependent upon an applied sodium gradient. Transport data across different substrate concentrations were best fit to the sigmoidal Hill equation, with a K(0.5) of 19.4 ± 1.3 μM and a cooperativity coefficient of 1.6. Sodium binding was noncooperative with a K(m)(app) of 1.7 ± 1.0 mM, suggesting a transport silicic acid:Na(+) stoichiometry of 2:1. These results provide the basis for a full understanding of both silicon transport in the diatom and protein-silicon interactions in general.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"