Engineered proteins for interfacing biology with solid materials

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Geza Szilvay, Bartosz Gabryelczyk, Suvi Arola, Katri Kurppa, Arja Paananen, Pivi Laaksonen, Markus B. Linder

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finland

Biomolecules in Nature interact with solid materials by producing and degrading, as well as attaching to them. Material binding proteins found in Nature can serve as a basis for the engineering of biointerfaces but an understanding of the molecular origins of biomolecular interactions is often required for their technological use. We have studied and engineered material binding proteins for various applications. Examples include proteins binding to hydrophobic – hydrophilic interfaces (fungal hydrophobins), carbohydrates such as cellulose and chitin (fungal and bacterial carbohydrate binding domains), and biominerals (aspeins from oyster). As these proteins have shown strong binding to technologically relevant materials (carbon nanotubes, graphene, nanocellulosic paper, and calcium carbonate, respectively), they show great promise for use in applications. Furthermore, combinatorial peptide library selection methods can be used to develop solid binding peptides to materials not found in nature. This approach can be challenging as the interactions required are usually not typical in biology. We have generated diamond-like carbon binding peptides by phage display that may find use in water-based lubrication and in interfacing biology with electronics. Utilizing the material specificities of these natural and non-natural biomolecules enables the interlinking of different material components together for example in biomimetic composite materials. Furthermore, these proteins may show use in interfacing engineered biological systems with solid or nanomaterials.