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  1. Silaffin peptide R5 is key for the biogenesis of silica cell walls of diatoms. Biosilification by the R5 peptide has potential in biotechnology, drug development, and materials science due to its ability to precipitate stable, high fidelity silica sheets and particles. A true barrier for the design of novel peptide-based architectures for wider applications has been the limited understanding of the interfacial structure of R5 when precipitating silica nanoparticles. While R5−silica interactions have been studied in detail at flat surfaces, the structure within nanophase particles is still being debated. We herein elucidate the conformation of R5 in its active formmore »within silica particles by combining interface-specific vibrational spectroscopy data with solid-state NMR torsion angles using theoretical spectra. Our calculations show that R5 is structured and undergoes a conformational transition from a strand-type motif in solution to a more curved, contracted structure when interacting with silica precursors.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 7, 2022
  2. Dipeptides, which consist of two amino acids joined by a peptide bond, have been shown to have catalytic functions. This observation leads to fundamental questions relevant to the origin of life. How could peptides have become colocalized with the first protocells? Which structural features would have determined the association of amino acids and peptides with membranes? Could the association of dipeptides with protocell membranes have driven molecular evolution, favoring dipeptides over individual amino acids? Using pulsed-field gradient nuclear magnetic resonance, we find that several prebiotic amino acids and dipeptides bind to prebiotic membranes. For amino acids, the side chains andmore »carboxylate contribute to the interaction. For dipeptides, the extent of binding is generally less than that of the constituent amino acids, implying that other mechanisms would be necessary to drive molecular evolution. Nevertheless, our results are consistent with a scheme in which the building blocks of the biological polymers colocalized with protocells prior to the emergence of RNA and proteins.« less
  3. Adsorption of biomolecules onto material surfaces involves a potentially complex mechanism where molecular species interact to varying degrees with a heterogeneous material surface. Surface adsorption studies by atomic force microscopy, sum frequency generation spectroscopy, and solid-state NMR detect the structures and interactions of biomolecular species that are bound to material surfaces, which, in the absence of a solid–liquid interface, do not exchange rapidly between surface-bound forms and free molecular species in bulk solution. Solution NMR has the potential to complement these techniques by detecting and studying transiently bound biomolecules at the liquid–solid interface. Herein, we show that dark-state exchange saturationmore »transfer (DEST) NMR experiments on gel-stabilized TiO2 nanoparticle (NP) samples detect several forms of biomolecular adsorption onto titanium(IV) oxide surfaces. Specifically, we use the DEST approach to study the interaction of amino acids arginine (Arg), lysine (Lys), leucine (Leu), alanine (Ala), and aspartic acid (Asp) with TiO2 rutile NP surfaces. Whereas Leu, Ala, and Asp display only a single weakly interacting form in the presence of TiO2 NPs, Arg and Lys displayed at least two distinct bound forms: a species that is surface bound and retains a degree of reorientational motion and a second more tightly bound form characterized by broadened DEST profiles upon the addition of TiO2 NPs. Molecular dynamics simulations indicate different surface bound states for both Lys and Arg depending on the degree of TiO2 surface hydroxylation but only a single bound state for Asp regardless of the degree of surface hydroxylation, in agreement with results obtained from the analysis of DEST profiles.« less