To create the self-assembling molecular cage, Todd Yeates and his colleagues linked two different kinds of proteins (symbolized by green and purple) with a rigid protein link (yellow) that holds them in place at the correct angle. Twelve of these protein puzzle pieces fit together to create the cage (shown at right).
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Actual proteins are long strings of amino acids, more like long tangles of ribbon rather than LEGO blocks. The top row shows the process through a simplified geometric model while the bottom row shows a more realistic depiction (with each color symbolizing a separate protein). The grey sphere in the protein cage at the bottom right was placed there to indicate the empty space in the middle of the container and is not part of the molecular structure.
(Credit: Todd Yeates, Yen-Ting Lai/UCLA Chemistry and Biochemistry)