Abstract: Encapsulins, self-assembling icosahedral protein nanocages derived from prokaryotes, represent a versatile set of tools for nanobiotechnology. However, a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms underlying encapsulin self-assembly, disassembly, and reassembly is lacking. Here, we characterise the disassembly/reassembly properties of three encapsulin nanocages that possess different structural architectures: T = 1 (24 nm), T = 3 (32 nm), and T = 4 (42 nm). Using spectroscopic techniques and electron microscopy, encapsulin architectures were found to exhibit varying sensitivities to the denaturant guanidine hydrochloride (GuHCl), extreme pH, and elevated temperature. While all encapsulins showed the capacity to reassemble following GuHCl-induced disassembly (within 75 min), only the smallest T = 1 nanocage reassembled after disassembly in basic pH (within 15 min). Furthermore, atomic force microscopy revealed that all encapsulins showed a significant loss of structural integrity after undergoing sequential disassembly/reassembly steps. These findings provide insights into encapsulins disassembly/reassembly dynamics, thus informing their future design, modification, and application.
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