Hybrid Biomaterials Form a Co-assembling Nanowire

Hybrid Biomaterials Form a Co-assembling Nanowire

By Minttu Kansikas

Applications of man-made biomolecular nanostructures made from proteins or DNA range from drug delivery systems and molecular biosensors to nanoscale robots.  Justifiably, hybrid biomaterials can compile a wider range of desired functional and structural properties than single-component biomaterials, the latter being functionally limited by the defined properties of their constituting material. Hybrid bio-assemblies are usually composed of a DNA backbone to which proteins can be chemically conjugated to.

A research group from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) combined proteins and DNA to make a hybridized co-assembly nanowire structure with an even wider range of exploitable properties. The researchers used a computer model to carefully design the underlying sequence of the nanowire structure to include the target sequence of a naturally occurring transcription factor. When functionally modified, the transcription factor can ensure the continuous protein-DNA contact throughout the core of the nanowire. As such, the nanowire is made without chemical conjugation methods that can limit the applications of the structure. Instead, the formation of the non-covalent junctions constituting the nanowire can be triggered or inhibited by altering its environment.

Essentially, reaction conditions such as temperature or pH could be regulated to control where and when the structure assembles. In fact, it is the ability of the constituting components to co-assemble into a hybrid biomaterial that could be the key to more advanced and controlled drug delivery systems. Examples include gene therapy when combined with RNA instead of DNA and other more advanced biomaterial designs.


Mou Y., Yu JY., Wannier TM., Guo CL., Mayo SL. (2015) Computational design of co-assembling protein-DNA nanowires. Nature, 525:230-3.


Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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