The ferritin superfamily: Supramolecular templates for materials synthesis

Masaki Uchida, Sebyung Kang, Courtney Reichhardt, Kevin Harlen, Trevor Douglas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


Members of the ferritin superfamily are multi-subunit cage-like proteins with a hollow interior cavity. These proteins possess three distinct surfaces, i.e. interior and exterior surfaces of the cages and interface between subunits. The interior cavity provides a unique reaction environment in which the interior reaction is separated from the external environment. In biology the cavity is utilized for sequestration of irons and biomineralization as a mechanism to render Fe inert and sequester it from the external environment. Material scientists have been inspired by this system and exploited a range of ferritin superfamily proteins as supramolecular templates to encapsulate nanoparticles and/or as well-defined building blocks for fabrication of higher order assembly. Besides the interior cavity, the exterior surface of the protein cages can be modified without altering the interior characteristics. This allows us to deliver the protein cages to a targeted tissuein vivo or to achieve controlled assembly on a solid substrate to fabricate higher order structures. Furthermore, the interface between subunits is utilized for manipulating chimeric self-assembly of the protein cages and in the generation of symmetry-broken Janus particles. Utilizing these ideas, the ferritin superfamily has been exploited for development of a broad range of materials with applications from biomedicine to electronics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)834-845
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Bio-template
  • Biomimetic chemistry
  • Dps (DNA binding protein from nutrient starved cells)
  • Ferritin
  • Janus particle
  • Multifunctionalities
  • Nanoparticle


Dive into the research topics of 'The ferritin superfamily: Supramolecular templates for materials synthesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this