In Washington, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington School of Medicine demonstrated that artificial proteins engineered from scratch were assembled into nanorod arrays, designer filaments and honeycomb lattices on the surface of mica, demonstrating control over the way proteins interact with surfaces to form complex structures previously seen only in natural protein systems.
The study provides a foundation for understanding how protein-crystal interactions can be systematically programmed. This sets the stage for designing novel protein-inorganic hybrid materials.
The goal of the research was to engineer artificial proteins to self-assemble on a crystal surface by creating an exact match between the pattern of amino acids in the protein and the atoms of the crystal. The ability to program these interactions could enable the design of new biomimetic materials with customized colors, chemical reactivity or mechanical properties, or to serve as scaffolds for nano-scale filters, solar cells or electronic circuits.