On the design of composite protein-quantum dot biomaterials via self-assembly.
Additional Document Info
Incorporation of nanoparticles during the hierarchical self-assembly of protein-based materials can impart function to the resulting composite materials. Herein we demonstrate that the structure and nanoparticle distribution of composite fibers are sensitive to the method of nanoparticle addition and the physicochemical properties of both the nanoparticle and the protein. Our model system consists of a recombinant enhanced green fluorescent protein-Ultrabithorax (EGFP-Ubx) fusion protein and luminescent CdSe-ZnS core-shell quantum dots (QDs), allowing us to optically assess the distribution of both the protein and nanoparticle components within the composite material. Although QDs favorably interact with EGFP-Ubx monomers, the relatively rough surface morphology of composite fibers suggests EGFP-Ubx-QD conjugates impact self-assembly. Indeed, QDs templated onto EGFP-Ubx film post-self-assembly can be subsequently drawn into smooth composite fibers. Additionally, the QD surface charge impacts QD distribution within the composite material, indicating that surface charge plays an important role in self-assembly. QDs with either positively or negatively charged coatings significantly enhance fiber extensibility. Conversely, QDs coated with hydrophobic moieties and suspended in toluene produce composite fibers with a heterogeneous distribution of QDs and severely altered fiber morphology, indicating that toluene severely disrupts Ubx self-assembly. Understanding factors that impact the protein-nanoparticle interaction enables manipulation of the structure and mechanical properties of composite materials. Since proteins interact with nanoparticle surface coatings, these results should be applicable to other types of nanoparticles with similar chemical groups on the surface.