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Molecular biomimetics: nanotechnology through biology

Abstract

Proteins, through their unique and specific interactions with other macromolecules and inorganics, control structures and functions of all biological hard and soft tissues in organisms. Molecular biomimetics is an emerging field in which hybrid technologies are developed by using the tools of molecular biology and nanotechnology. Taking lessons from biology, polypeptides can now be genetically engineered to specifically bind to selected inorganic compounds for applications in nano- and biotechnology. This review discusses combinatorial biological protocols, that is, bacterial cell surface and phage-display technologies, in the selection of short sequences that have affinity to (noble) metals, semiconducting oxides and other technological compounds. These genetically engineered proteins for inorganics (GEPIs) can be used in the assembly of functional nanostructures. Based on the three fundamental principles of molecular recognition, self-assembly and DNA manipulation, we highlight successful uses of GEPI in nanotechnology.

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Figure 1: Examples of biologically synthesized complex materials.
Figure 2: Molecular biomimetics.
Figure 3: Phage display and cell-surface display.
Figure 4: A gold-binding protein (3-repeat GBP1) on Au(111) and Au(112) surfaces.
Figure 5: Effect of GEPI on nanocrystal morphology.
Figure 6: The potential of using GEPI as 'molecular erector' sets.

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Acknowledgements

We thank our colleagues S. Brown (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), D. Schwartz, F. Ohuchi and B. Traxler for invaluable discussions, and S. Dincer, D. Heidel, R. Braun (Beckman Institute, University of Illinois), M. H. Zareie, V. Bulmus and H. Fong (all at University of Washington) for technical help. This research was supported by the US Army Research Office (Program Manager: Robert Campbell) through a DURINT Program (Defense University Research Initiative on Nanotechnology).

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Sarikaya, M., Tamerler, C., Jen, AY. et al. Molecular biomimetics: nanotechnology through biology. Nature Mater 2, 577–585 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat964

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