VTT Biotechnology, University of Helsinki
Supervisor: Markus Linder
Nature provides many examples of materials and devices that possess properties which are extremely desired in modern material technologies. They are often "smart", dynamic, responsive, self-healing, multifunctional, complex structures with highly controlled nanoarchitecture. Many existing natural models can be investigated and engineered in order to achieve synthetic systems with similar properties for a lot of everyday and high-technological applications such as: composite materials, biosensing, tibology, nanoelectronics, drug delivery and bioremediation. One of the approaches to reach this goal is molecular biomimetics. Starting point of developing new bioinspired materials is learning and understanding structural principles of interactions between proteins and their target molecules at the molecular level, focusing especially at recognition proteins - inorganic materials in the context of protein adhesion.
Molecular recognition and consequently other properties of proteins have been developed during evolution process via successive cycles of mutation and selection, optimized for a given set of conditions. These natural evolution processes can be emulated in the laboratory scale with the use of directed evolution methods. Phage display is extremely useful tool in realizing this approach. It allows selecting short, specific inorganic binding peptides in various practical materials systems from the library of billons of different variants. Next selected peptides are studied by experimental and computational methods to define their sequence, structure and binding properties. The peptides are further engineered with the use of recombinant DNA technologies to get multiple repeats of their amino acid sequences in order to improve their binding affinity and tailor their function. Selected, investigated and genetically engineered target specific peptides can be utilized as tools for designing protein-mediated functional biomaterials and developing technologies for variety of applications.