Modular Design of Self-Assembling Peptide-Based Nanotubes

Natasha C. Burgess, Thomas H. Sharp, Franziska Thomas, Chris W Wood, Andrew R. Thomson, Nathan R. Zaccai, R. Leo Brady, Louise C. Serpell, Derek N. Woolfson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)
315 Downloads (Pure)


An ability to design peptide-based nanotubes (PNTs) rationally with defined and mutable internal channels would advance understanding of peptide self-assembly, and present new biomaterials for nanotechnology and medicine. PNTs have been made from Fmoc dipeptides, cyclic peptides, and lock-washer helical bundles. Here we show that blunt-ended α-helical barrels, that is, preassembled bundles of α-helices with central channels, can be used as building blocks for PNTs. This approach is general and systematic, and uses a set of de novo helical bundles as standards. One of these bundles, a hexameric α-helical barrel, assembles into highly ordered PNTs, for which we have determined a structure by combining cryo-transmission electron microscopy, X-ray fiber diffraction, and model building. The structure reveals that the overall symmetry of the peptide module plays a critical role in ripening and ordering of the supramolecular assembly. PNTs based on pentameric, hexameric, and heptameric α-helical barrels sequester hydrophobic dye within their lumens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10554-10562
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number33
Early online date12 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2015

Structured keywords

  • Bristol BioDesign Institute
  • BrisSynBio


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