made with VMD
Biological cells, the basic units of life, are organized assemblies of nanodevices. Nanobiotechnology can adapt Nature's solutions for its own purposes, using computational biology to redesign Nature's nanodevices. In the case of Nanodiscs, bioengineers thought to construct the smallest possible environment that mimics the native environment of membrane proteins. Researchers borrowed the amino acid sequence of a naturally occurring class of proteins, lipoproteins, which are involved in the transport of lipids and cholesterol. The lipoprotein found in humans, apolipoprotein A-1, was used to synthetically engineer "belts" that surround a discoidal lipid bilayer, shielding the hydrophobic lipid tail groups from water. As recently reported, molecular dynamics simulations using NAMD showed an atomic level image of the structure of such a nanodevice. The predicted discoidal shape, diameter, and thickness of Nanodiscs simulated were experimentally corroborated through so-called small angle X-ray scattering. For more details see the HDL & Nanodisc website.