Nicole Wheatley in the Yeates lab recently received her Ph.D. degree after her success in discovering a RuBisCO chaperone, dubbed alpha-carboxysome RiBisCO assembly factor (acRAF). Carboxysomes are bacterial microcompartments that assist in the fixation of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. RuBisCO is the enzyme that catalyzes the fixation, and is estimated to be the most abundant enzyme on earth.
The function of acRAF was a mystery at first because the structure of the protein resembled an enzyme known to perform a role completely unrelated to chaperoning. The team performed a battery of experiments to elucidate the biological role of the protein an unlock the mystery of the gene’s association with carboxysomes.
Wheatley NM, Sundberg CD, Gidaniyan SD, Cascio D, Yeates TO. Structure and identification of a pterin dehydratase-like protein as a ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO) assembly factor in the α-carboxysome. J Biol Chem. 2014 Mar 14;289(11):7973-81. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.531236. Epub 2014 Jan 23. PubMed PMID: 24459150; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3953307.