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Carboxysomes are a family of bacterial microcompartments in cyanobacteria and chemoautotrophs. They encapsulate Ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) and carbonic anhydrase catalyzing carbon fixation inside a proteinaceous shell. How Rubisco complexes pack within the carboxysomes is unknown. Using cryo-electron tomography, we determine the distinct 3D organization of Rubisco inside two distant α-carboxysomes from a marine α-cyanobacterium Cyanobium sp. PCC 7001 where Rubiscos are organized in three concentric layers, and from a chemoautotrophic bacterium Halothiobacillus neapolitanus where they form intertwining spirals. We further resolve the structures of native Rubisco as well as its higher-order assembly at near-atomic resolutions by subtomogram averaging. The structures surprisingly reveal that the authentic intrinsically disordered linker protein CsoS2 interacts with Rubiscos in native carboxysomes but functions distinctively in the two α-carboxysomes. In contrast to the uniform Rubisco-CsoS2 association in the Cyanobium α-carboxysome, CsoS2 binds only to the Rubiscos close to the shell in the Halo α-carboxysome. Our findings provide critical knowledge of the assembly principles of α-carboxysomes, which may aid in the rational design and repurposing of carboxysome structures for new functions.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature communications

Publication Date





Division of Structural Biology, Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.