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  1. Abstract

    Programmable behavior combined with tailored stiffness and tunable biomechanical response are key requirements for developing successful materials. However, these properties are still an elusive goal for protein-based biomaterials. Here, we use protein-polymer interactions to manipulate the stiffness of protein-based hydrogels made from bovine serum albumin (BSA) by using polyelectrolytes such as polyethyleneimine (PEI) and poly-L-lysine (PLL) at various concentrations. This approach confers protein-hydrogels with tunable wide-range stiffness, from ~10–64 kPa, without affecting the protein mechanics and nanostructure. We use the 6-fold increase in stiffness induced by PEI to program BSA hydrogels in various shapes. By utilizing the characteristic protein unfolding we can induce reversible shape-memory behavior of these composite materials using chemical denaturing solutions. The approach demonstrated here, based on protein engineering and polymer reinforcing, may enable the development and investigation of smart biomaterials and extend protein hydrogel capabilities beyond their conventional applications.

  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 9, 2023
  3. DLC1 locks talin R8 in a mechanically stable state, potentially preventing the inside-out activation of integrins.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 15, 2023
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  6. Smart materials that are capable of memorizing a temporary shape, and morph in response to a stimulus, have the potential to revolutionize medicine and robotics. Here, we introduce an innovative method to program protein hydrogels and to induce shape changes in aqueous solutions at room temperature. We demonstrate our approach using hydrogels made from serum albumin, the most abundant protein in the blood plasma, which are synthesized in a cylindrical or flower shape. These gels are then programmed into a spring or a ring shape, respectively. The programming is performed through a marked change in stiffness (of up to 17-fold), induced by adsorption of Zn 2+ or Cu 2+ cations. We show that these programmed biomaterials can then morph back into their original shape, as the cations diffuse outside the hydrogel material. The approach demonstrated here represents an innovative strategy to program protein-based hydrogels to behave as actuators.
  7. Binding-induced mechanical stabilization plays key roles in proteins involved in muscle contraction, cellular mechanotransduction, or bacterial adhesion. Because of the vector nature of force, single-molecule force spectroscopy techniques are ideal for measuring the mechanical unfolding of proteins. However, current approaches are still prone to calibration errors between experiments and geometrical variations between individual tethers. Here, we introduce a single-molecule assay based on magnetic tweezers and heterocovalent attachment, which can measure the binding of the substrate–ligand using the same protein molecule. We demonstrate this approach with protein L, a model bacterial protein which has two binding interfaces for the same region of kappa-light chain antibody ligands. Engineered molecules with eight identical domains of protein L between a HaloTag and a SpyTag were exposed to repeated unfolding–refolding cycles at forces up to 100 pN for several hours at a time. The unfolding behavior of the same protein was measured in solution buffers with different concentrations of antibody ligands. With increasing antibody concentration, an increasing number of protein L domains became more stable, indicative of ligand binding and mechanical reinforcement. Interestingly, the dissociation constant of the mechanically reinforced states coincides with that measured for the low-avidity binding interface of protein L, suggesting amore »physiological role for the second binding interface. The molecular approach presented here opens the road to a new type of binding experiments, where the same molecule can be exposed to different solvents or ligands.« less