Katri Kurppa

VTT Biotechnology, Aalto University
Supervisor: Markus Linder
Funding: other
Date: 16/02/2007

Functional nanostructures

Biomolecules have gained broad interest as components and templates for nanoscale structures in the recent years [1-3]. Structural complexicity and an ability to assemble into larger entities make proteins especially interesting building blocks in nanoscience applications. A descriptive example is the self-assembled structures formed by Ringler et al. from engineered protein building blocks. [4]

This research will focus on the creation and characterization of novel bionanostructures and learning to understand the principles governing molecular interactions at the nanoscale. The inherent structure and function of suitable biological molecules is the starting point of designing functional architectures. For example, the self-assembly of proteins into nanoscale entities will be used as a basic source of structural order. The main scaffolds that will be used for this purpose are hydrophobins. The hydrophobins are small proteins produced by filamentous fungi which have a unique structural feature - a solvent exposed patch of hydrophobic residues at one side of the molecule. The amphiphilic structure of hydrophobins enables them to self-assemble at interfaces forming a nanopatterned monolayer [5,7]. In solution the hydrophobins form multimers through intermolecular hydrophobic interactions [6]. They are thus ideal building blocks for generating adhesive properties, multivalency and organized monomolecular layers. The interaction of hydrophobins with surfaces also makes introduction of inorganic or organic nanoparticles into the designed structures feasible.

In addition other suitable scaffolds will be produced to enable structure formation in two and three dimensions and in predefined geometries. These include polypeptides with multimerizing domains as well as scaffolds that exhibit stimuli induced conformational changes or have interactions with inorganic materials. Also different biological interactions and organic molecules will be evaluated for bringing switching properties and function into the designed structures.