The ArtMotor project aims at designing and building functional, synthetic protein motors, and to detect their movements along a DNA-track

As a first step, the partners will construct relatively simple protein motors that will require external control to achieve motility. The final goal is to construct, step by step, an autonomous protein motor capable of transducing chemical energy, e.g. from ATP, to move along a track.

Further reading: Linke, H., Höcker, B., Furuta, K. et al. Synthetic biology approaches to dissecting linear motor protein function: towards the design and synthesis of artificial autonomous protein walkers. Biophys Rev 12, 1041–1054 (2020).

The purpose of constructing artificial protein motors is to elucidate requirements for motility and the mechanisms for proteins to transduce energy

The simplest motor type that will be used is a passive type of motor which is driven by external forces, analogous to the tumbleweeds that are blown by the wind through the desert.

If you expect the tumbleweed motor to move fast, you will be disappointed

Firstly, the movement is determined by the exchange of the solution  and secondly, at the small size of a single molecule motor, it is buffeted around by  the Brownian motion of the solution, so it may take a while until a free foot finds the next DNA binding site and makes an actual step forward.

Tumbleweed; Noah Wulf; CC BY-SA 4.0

Our protein motor of the tumbleweed type consists of a hub with three spokes of coiled coil alpha chains with a different DNA-binding section as foot at the end of each spoke

The feet are derived from bacterial DNA-binding motifs. In our case, the driving force will come from the chemical potential in the surrounding aqueous solution.

Further reading: Small, L.S.R. et al. Construction of a Chassis for a Tripartite Protein-Based Molecular Motor. ACS Synth. Biol. 2017, 6, 6, 1096–1102,

Researcher pipetting; photo: H Röjder