Identification of multiple dityrosine bonds in materials composed of the Drosophila protein Ultrabithorax. Academic Article uri icon


  • The recombinant protein Ultrabithorax (Ubx), a Drosophila melanogaster Hox transcription factor, self-assembles into biocompatible materials in vitro that are remarkably extensible and strong. Here, we demonstrate that the strength of Ubx materials is due to intermolecular dityrosine bonds. Ubx materials auto-fluoresce blue, a characteristic of dityrosine, and bind dityrosine-specific antibodies. Monitoring the fluorescence of reduced Ubx fibers upon oxygen exposure reveals biphasic bond formation kinetics. Two dityrosine bonds in Ubx were identified by site-directed mutagenesis followed by measurements of fiber fluorescent intensity. One bond is located between the N-terminus and the homeodomain (Y4/Y296 or Y12/Y293), and another bond is formed by Y167 and Y240. Fiber fluorescence closely correlates with fiber strength, demonstrating that these bonds are intermolecular. To our knowledge, this is the first identification of specific residues that participate in dityrosine bonds in protein-based materials. The percentage of Ubx molecules harboring both bonds can be decreased or increased by mutagenesis, providing an additional mechanism to control the mechanical properties of Ubx materials. Duplication of tyrosine-containing motifs in Ubx increases dityrosine content in Ubx fibers, suggesting these motifs could be inserted in other self-assembling proteins to strengthen the corresponding materials.

published proceedings

  • Adv Funct Mater

author list (cited authors)

  • Howell, D. W., Tsai, S., Churion, K., Patterson, J., Abbey, C., Atkinson, J. T., ... Bondos, S. E.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Howell, David W||Tsai, Shang-Pu||Churion, Kelly||Patterson, Jan||Abbey, Colette||Atkinson, Joshua T||Porterpan, Dustin||You, Yil-Hwan||Meissner, Kenith E||Bayless, Kayla J||Bondos, Sarah E

publication date

  • October 2015