Nature has many examples of self-assembly, and bioengineers are interested in copying or manipulating these systems to create useful new materials or devices. Amyloid proteins, for example, can self-assemble into the tangled plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease — but similar proteins can also form very useful materials, such as spider silk, or biofilms around living cells. Researchers at UC Davis and Rice University have now come up with methods to manipulate natural proteins so that they self-assemble into amyloid fibrils. The paper is published online by the journal ACS Nano.
Amyloid fibers self-assemble from smaller proteins. UC Davis researchers have engineered other proteins so they spontaneously form amyloid. These new proteins could be useful in nanotechnology. Here, the cap structure (red) was removed from spruce budworm antifreeze protein and other structures adjusted so that molecules could link up as fibrils (bottom).
Engineering Amyloid Fibrils from ?-Solenoid Proteins for Biomaterials Applications, DOI: 10.1021/nn5056089
The project was funded by the Research Investments in Science and Engineering program, established by the UC Davis Office of Research to seed large-scale interdisciplinary research efforts on campus. In addition to Cox and Peralta, the team included Arpad Karsai, Alice Ngo, Catherine Sierra, Kai Fong, Xi Chen, Gang-yu Liu and Michael Toney in the UC Davis Department of Chemistry; N. Robert Hayre, Nima Mirzaee, Krishnakumar Ravikumar and Rajiv Singh in the Department of Physics; and Alexander Kluber at Rice University, Houston. Several authors are also affiliated with the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter, based at UC Davis.