Post-translational modification of proteins is a strategy widely used in biological systems. It expands the diversity of the proteome and allows for tailoring of both the function and localization of proteins within cells as well as the material properties of structural proteins and matrices. Despite their ubiquity in biology, with a few exceptions, the potential of post-translational modifications in biomaterials synthesis has remained largely untapped. As a proof of concept to demonstrate the feasibility of creating a genetically encoded biohybrid material through post-translational modification, we report here the generation of a family of three stimulus-responsive hybrid materials—fatty-acid-modified elastin-like polypeptides—using a one-pot recombinant expression and post-translational lipidation methodology. These hybrid biomaterials contain an amphiphilic domain, composed of a β-sheet-forming peptide that is post-translationally functionalized with a C14 alkyl chain, fused to a thermally responsive elastin-like polypeptide. They exhibit temperature-triggered hierarchical self-assembly across multiple length scales with varied structure and material properties that can be controlled at the sequence level.

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This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Research Triangle Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC; DMR-1121107) and by the National Institutes of Health (NIH; R01 GM-061232). Duke University Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility (SMIF) and Analytical Instrumentation facility (AIF) at North Carolina State University are members of the North Carolina Research Triangle NanotechnologyNetwork (RTNN), which is supported by the NSF (ECCS-1542015) as part of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI). The authors thank K. Franz for access to chromatography instrumentation and the peptide synthesizer, J.G. Mark for conducting SDCLM experiments and M. Plue for the SEM imaging. The authors also thank H. Burg for her support in SFM sample preparation and analysis, M.-J. van Zadel for assistance with the variable-temperature ATR-IR experiments and M. Rubinstein for suggestions regarding the mechanism of self-assembly.

Author information


  1. NSF Research Triangle Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

    • Davoud Mozhdehi
    • , Kelli M. Luginbuhl
    • , Joseph R. Simon
    • , Michael Dzuricky
    • , Isaac Weitzhandler
    •  & Ashutosh Chilkoti
  2. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

    • Davoud Mozhdehi
    • , Kelli M. Luginbuhl
    • , Joseph R. Simon
    • , Michael Dzuricky
    • , Fred C. Huang
    • , Kristen L. Buehne
    • , Nicholas R. Mayne
    • , Isaac Weitzhandler
    •  & Ashutosh Chilkoti
  3. Physics at Interfaces, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz, Germany

    • Rüdiger Berger
  4. Department of Molecular Spectroscopy, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz, Germany

    • H. Samet Varol
    • , Mischa Bonn
    •  & Sapun H. Parekh


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D.M., K.M.L. and A.C. designed and performed experiments, analysed data and wrote the manuscript. J.R.S., M.D., R.B., H.S.V., S.H.P., F.C.H., K.L.B., N.R.M., I.W. and M.B. performed experiments, analysed data and took part in discussions.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ashutosh Chilkoti.

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