The rational design of peptides that fold to form discrete nanoscale objects, and/or self-assemble into nanostructured materials is an exciting challenge. Such efforts test and extend our understanding of sequence-to-structure relationships in proteins, and potentially provide materials for applications in bionanotechnology. Over the past decade or so, rules for the folding and assembly of one particular protein-structure motif—the α-helical coiled coil—have advanced sufficiently to allow the confident design of novel peptides that fold to prescribed structures. Coiled coils are based on interacting α-helices, and guide and cement many protein–protein interactions in nature. As such, they present excellent starting points for building complex objects and materials that span the nano-to-micron scales from the bottom up. Along with others, we have translated and extended our understanding of coiled-coil folding and assembly to develop novel peptide-based biomaterials. Herein, we outline briefly the rules for the folding and assembly of coiled-coil motifs, and describe how we have used them in de novo design of discrete nanoscale objects and soft synthetic biomaterials. Moreover, we describe how the approach can be extended to other small, independently folded protein motifs—such as zinc fingers and EF-hands—that could be incorporated into more complex, multi-component synthetic systems and new hybrid and responsive biomaterials.
- Bristol BioDesign Institute
- synthetic biology