Congratulations to Assistant Professor Gregory A. Hudalla on publishing an article in the journal, Nature Materials. Nature Materials covers a range of topics within materials science, from materials engineering and structural materials, to organic and soft materials, and is the highest ranked materials science journal, with a Thomson Reuters 2012 impact factor of 35.749. Dr. Hudalla’s paper, “Gradated assembly of multiple proteins into supramolecular nanomaterials”,1 describes the design of an engineered fusion protein having an integrated polypeptide tail, referred to as a “BetaTail”, which enables protein expression and recovery from a microbial host, yet facilitates rapid protein integration into synthetic peptide nanofibers.
Numerous biological processes throughout nature – from bacterial flagellar motion to multicellular organization in mammalian tissues – are the result of assembly of different proteins into supramolecular entities with nanoscale dimensions and exquisitely defined molecular composition. Biomaterials that can mimic the architecture or molecular composition of natural, protein-based systems are of great interest for a broad array of applications, including regenerative medicine, immunotherapy, drug delivery, enzyme catalysis, biosensors, and bioelectronics. However, methods to create synthetic materials that approach the molecular complexity and precision of natural protein assemblies have been limited to date.
Using the BetaTail fusion protein system, Dr. Hudalla and colleagues created a range of biomaterials with exquisitely defined composition of various protein ligands. Specifically, they achieved precisely targeted hues using mixtures of fluorescent proteins, created nanofibers with independently tunable fluorescent and enzymatic function, and adjusted antigenic dominance toward the development of a self-adjuvanting multi-antigen vaccine. This approach provides an unprecedented strategy to create nanofibers with precisely gradated composition of various functional protein ligands, and thus greatly expands the ‘toolkit’ available for creating multifunctional biomaterials. They envision that this simple approach will greatly enable future efforts to create synthetic nanofibers that approach the complexity and precision of natural protein-based assemblies, ultimately leading to a broad array of novel biomaterials for use in diverse applications ranging from basic to clinical sciences.
1) Hudalla, G.A., Sun, T., Gasiorowski, J.Z., Han, H., Tian, Y.F., Chong, A.S., and Collier, J.H. Gradated assembly of multiple proteins into supramolecular nanomaterials. Nature Materials, DOI: 10.1038/nmat3998 (2014).