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Protein-based functional nanostructures

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - ProNANO (Protein-based functional nanostructures)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

The precise synthesis of new devices with tailored complex structures and properties is a requisite for their use in nanotechnology and medicine. Nowadays, the technology for the generation of devices at the nanoscale lacks the precision to determine their properties, and is accomplished mostly by “trial and error” experimental approaches. Bottom-up self-assembly that relies on highly specific biomolecular interactions of small and simple components, is an attractive approach for building nanometric architectures.
ProNANO proposes to overcome aforementioned challenges by using self-assembling protein building blocks as templates for nanofabrication. In Nature, protein assemblies govern sophisticated structures and functions, which are inspiration to engineer novel assemblies by exploiting the same set of tools and interactions to create nanostructures with numerous potential applications in synthetic biology and nanotechnology. However, nowadays challenges remain for scientist to develop such bioinspired technologies at the laboratory.
The overall objective of ProNANO project is the rational assembly a variety functional nanostructures by the logical combination of simple protein building blocks with specified properties.
Toward this end, during the first 18 months of the project, we have made the significant progresses in different areas.
First, we have explored the potential of particular protein modules to set the basis as a versatile scaffolding platform. In this sense we showed that the selected scaffold presents ideal properties as a robust building block. We have achieved the assembly of these protein modules into protein nanofibers, ordered monolayers, and self-standing protein materials. In addition, we developed a soft nanolithography methodology to nanopattern these protein materials. Overall we have shown a good control over the structure of the building blocks, the supramolecular assembly and the generation or protein based materials.
Then we started our work on the application of these protein scaffolds as templates for the organization of different functional elements at the nanoscale, in order to expand the functionality of protein’s assemblies. As a first step, we have established a methodology to integrate non-natural amino acids in the designed protein scaffold, which will open the door to the use of multiple orthogonal chemistries to achieve complex multifunctional assemblies. Secondly we have shown two proof of concept examples that resulted in the nanometric organization of gold nanomaterials, photoactive molecules, and metallic nanoclustres.
ProNANO’s research not only contributes to our understanding of the development of protein design field and the bottom up assembly of specific protein-based hybrid nanostructures, but also will provide a modular versatile platform for the fabrication of multiple protein-based hybrid functional nanostructures.
Altogether, the achievements of this project will set-up the general strategies and guidelines for the rational and efficient fabrication of novel materials and nano-devices for a wide range of applications: from energy to biomedicine.