The tumbleweed: towards a synthetic protein motor

EHC Bromley, NJ Kuwada, MJ Zuckermann, R Donadini, L Samii, GA Blab, GJ Gemmen, BJ Lopez, PMG Curmi, NR Forde, DN Woolfson, H Linke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Biomolecular motors have inspired the design and construction of artificial nanoscale motors and machines based on nucleic acids, small molecules, and inorganic nanostructures. However, the high degree of sophistication and efficiency of biomolecular motors, as well as their specific biological function, derives from the complexity afforded by protein building blocks. Here, we discuss a novel bottom-up approach to understanding biological motors by considering the construction of synthetic protein motors. Specifically, we present a design for a synthetic protein motor that moves along a linear track, dubbed the “Tumbleweed.” This concept uses three discrete ligand-dependent DNA-binding domains to perform cyclically ligand-gated, rectified diffusion along a synthesized DNA molecule. Here we describe how de novo peptide design and molecular biology could be used to produce the Tumbleweed, and we explore the fundamental motor operation of such a design using numerical simulations. The construction of this and more sophisticated protein motors is an exciting challenge that is likely to enhance our understanding of the structure-function relationship in biological motors.
Translated title of the contributionThe tumbleweed: towards a synthetic protein motor
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204 - 212
JournalHFSP Journal
Volume3 (3)
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher: The HFSP Journal has now ceased its publication

Structured keywords

  • Bristol BioDesign Institute


  • synthetic biology


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