(2019) Israel Journal of Chemistry. Abstract
Supramolecular self-assembled structures, based on protein-protein interactions, have garnered widespread interest as prospective functional bionanomaterials. Possessing unique properties, proteins have been widely investigated in the last years, due to their capability to form a diversity of natural and artificially designed zero-, one-, two- and three-dimensional assemblies. These structures laid the basis for bionanomaterials design, including films, foams, gels, and others, with widespread applications in electronics, biomedicine, and environmental sciences. In this context, the present review is devoted to revealing the diversity of protein assemblies and related bionanomaterials. Special interest is paid to recent advances and new trends in functional amyloids and fibrillar silk-based self-assembling architectures, as well as their current and potential applications. We emphasize the protein nanostructures' diversity for the future design of functional protein-based materials.
Fabrication and Characterization of Reconstituted Silk Microgels for the Storage and Release of Small Molecules(2019) Macromolecular Rapid Communications. 40, 8, 1800898. Abstract[All authors]
Silk fibroin is a natural protein obtained from the Bombyx mori silkworm. In addition to being the key structural component in silkworm cocoons, it also has the propensity to self-assemble in vitro into hierarchical structures with desirable properties such as high levels of mechanical strength and robustness. Furthermore, it is an appealing biopolymer due to its biocompatability, low immunogenicity, and lack of toxicity, making it a prime candidate for biomedical material applications. Here, it is demonstrated that nanofibrils formed by reconstituted silk fibroin can be engineered into supramolecular microgels using a soft lithography-based microfluidic approach. Building on these results, a potential application for these protein microgels to encapsulate and release small molecules in a controlled manner is illustrated. Taken together, these results suggest that the tailored self-assembly of biocompatible and biodegradable silk nanofibrils can be used to generate functional micromaterials for a range of potential applications in the biomedical and pharmaceutical fields.
(2018) Advanced Materials. 30, 41, 1706462. Abstract
Protein self-assembly processes, by which polypeptides interact and independently form multimeric structures, lead to a wide array of different endpoints. Structures formed range from highly ordered molecular crystals to amorphous aggregates. Order arises in the system from a balance between many low-energy processes occurring due to a set of interactions between residues in a chain, between residues in different chains, and between solute and solvent. In Nature, self-assembling protein systems have evolved over millions of years to organize into supramolecular structures, optimized for specific functions, with this propensity determined by the sequence of their constituent amino acids, of which only 20 are encoded in DNA. The structural materials that arise from biological self-assembly can display remarkable mechanical properties, often as a result of hierarchical structure on the nano- and microscales, and much research has been devoted to mimicking and exploiting these properties for a variety of end uses. This work presents a review of a range of studies in which biological functions are effectively reproduced through the design of self-assembling fibrous protein systems.
(2018) Macromolecular Bioscience. 18, 4, 1700295. Abstract[All authors]
Native silk fibroin (NSF) is a unique biomaterial with extraordinary mechanical and biochemical properties. These key characteristics are directly associated with the physical transformation of unstructured, soluble NSF into highly organized nano-and microscale fibrils rich in beta-sheet content. Here, it is shown that this NSF fibrillation process is accompanied by the development of intrinsic fluorescence in the visible range, upon near-UV excitation, a phenomenon that has not been investigated in detail to date. Here, the optical and fluorescence characteristics of NSF fibrils are probed and a route for potential applications in the field of self-assembled optically active biomaterials and systems is explored. In particular, it is demonstrated that NSF can be structured into autofluorescent microcapsules with a controllable level of beta-sheet content and fluorescence properties. Furthermore, a facile and efficient fabrication route that permits arbitrary patterns of NSF microcapsules to be deposited on substrates under ambient conditions is shown. The resulting fluorescent NSF patterns display a high level of photostability. These results demonstrate the potential of using native silk as a new class of biocompatible photonic material.
(2017) Biomacromolecules. 18, 10, p. 3052-3059 Abstract
In nature, a wide range of functional materials is based on proteins. Increasing attention is also turning to the use of proteins as artificial biomaterials in the form of films, gels, particles, and fibrils that offer great potential for applications in areas ranging from molecular medicine to materials science. To date, however, most such applications have been limited to single component materials despite the fact that their natural analogues are composed of multiple types of proteins with a variety of functionalities that are coassembled in a highly organized manner on the micrometer scale, a process that is currently challenging to achieve in the laboratory. Here, we demonstrate the fabrication of multicomponent protein microcapsules where the different components are positioned in a controlled manner. We use molecular self-assembly to generate multicomponent structures on the nanometer scale and droplet microfluidics to bring together the different components on the micrometer scale. Using this approach, we synthesize a wide range of multiprotein microcapsules containing three well-characterized proteins: glucagon, insulin, and lysozyme. The localization of each protein component in multishell microcapsules has been detected by labeling protein molecules with different fluorophores, and the final three-dimensional microcapsule structure has been resolved by using confocal microscopy together with image analysis techniques. In addition, we show that these structures can be used to tailor the release of such functional proteins in a sequential manner. Moreover, our observations demonstrate that the protein release mechanism from multishell capsules is driven by the kinetic control of mass transport of the cargo and by the dissolution of the shells. The ability to generate artificial materials that incorporate a variety of different proteins with distinct functionalities increases the breadth of the potential applications of artificial protein-based materials
(2017) Nature Communications. 8, 15902. Abstract[All authors]
Naturally spun silks generate fibres with unique properties, including strength, elasticity and biocompatibility. Here we describe a microfluidics-based strategy to spin liquid native silk, obtained directly from the silk gland of Bombyx mori silkworms, into micron-scale capsules with controllable geometry and variable levels of intermolecular beta-sheet content in their protein shells. We demonstrate that such micrococoons can store internally the otherwise highly unstable liquid native silk for several months and without apparent effect on its functionality. We further demonstrate that these native silk micrococoons enable the effective encapsulation, storage and release of other aggregation-prone proteins, such as functional antibodies. These results show that native silk micrococoons are capable of preserving the full activity of sensitive cargo proteins that can aggregate and lose function under conditions of bulk storage, and thus represent an attractive class of materials for the storage and release of active biomolecules.
(2017) Israel Journal of Chemistry. 57, 7-8, p. 724-728 Abstract
Protein aggregation is commonly associated with the onset and development of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other forms of pathological disorders. While this phenomenon has historically been studied in the context of its relevance to human health, over the past decade significant research effort has focused on utilizing amyloid-like protein assemblies as building blocks for the development of functional biomaterials and a number of protein-based functional materials have been demonstrated. Here we extend this concept by synthesizing hybrid organic/inorganic microcapsules containing metal-based NPs and protein nanofibrils as a nanocomposite. To this effect, we exploit the propensity of lysozyme to self-assemble into amyloid nanofibrils and their functionalization by carboxyl-modified Fe3O4 NPs. We use a microfluidics-based approach to control the micron scale moprhology of the newly formed nanocomposites. Our results illustrate the potential ofthis strategy as a platform for fabricating microcapsules from nanofibril-inorganic NPs hybrid materials.
(2016) Journal of Materials Chemistry B. 4, 48, p. 7989-7999 Abstract[All authors]
Protein nanofibrils were first discovered in the context of misfolding and neurodegenerative diseases but have recently been found in naturally occurring functional materials including algal adhesives, bacterial coatings, and even mammalian melanosomes. These physiologically beneficial roles have led to the exploration of their use as the basis for artificial protein-based functional materials for a range of applications as bioscaffolds and carrier agents. In this work, we fabricate core shell protein microgels stabilized by protein fibrillation with hierarchical structuring on scales ranging from a few nanometers to tens of microns. With the aid of droplet microfluidics, we exploit fibrillar protein self-assembly together with the aqueous phase separation of a polysaccharide and polyethylene glycol to control the internal structure of the microgels on the micro- and nanoscales. We further elucidate the local composition, morphology, and structural characteristics of the microgels and demonstrate a potential application of core shell protein microgels for controlling the storage and sequential release of small drug-like molecules. The controlled self-assembly of protein nanofibrils into hierarchical structures can be used in this manner to generate a class of nanomaterials with a range of potential functions and applications.
Fabrication of fibrillosomes from droplets stabilized by protein nanofibrils at all-aqueous interfaces(2016) Nature Communications. 7, 12934. Abstract
All-aqueous emulsions exploit spontaneous liquid-liquid separation and due to their water-based nature are particular advantageous for the biocompatible storage and processing of biomacromolecules. However, the ultralow interfacial tensions characteristic of all-aqueous interfaces represent an inherent limitation to the use of thermally adsorbed particles to achieve emulsion stability. Here, we use protein nanofibrils to generate colloidosome-like two-dimensional crosslinked networks of nanostructures templated by all-aqueous emulsions, which we term fibrillosomes. We show that this approach not only allows us to operate below the thermal limit at ultra-low surface tensions but also yields structures that are stable even in the complete absence of an interface. Moreover, we show that the growth and multilayer deposition of fibrils allows us to control the thickness of the capsule shells. These results open up the possibility of stabilizing aqueous two-phase systems using natural proteins, and creating self-standing protein capsules without the requirement for three-phase emulsions or water/oil interfaces.
(2015) ACS Nano. 9, p. 43-51 Abstract
Nanofibrillar forms of proteins were initially recognized in the context of pathology, but more recently have been discovered in a range of functional roles in nature, including as active catalytic scaffolds and bacterial coatings. Here we show that protein nanofibrils can be used to form the basis of monodisperse microgels and gel shells composed of naturally occurring proteins. We explore the potential of these protein microgels to act as drug carrier agents, and demonstrate the controlled release of four different encapsulated drug-like small molecules, as well as the component proteins themselves. Furthermore, we show that protein nanofibril self-assembly can continue after the initial formation of the microgel particles, and that this process results in active materials with network densities that can be modulated in situ. We demonstrate that these materials are nontoxic to human cells and that they can be used to enhance the efficacy of antibiotics relative to delivery in homogeneous solution. Because of the biocompatibility and biodegradability of natural proteins used in the fabrication of the microgels, as well as their ability to control the release of small molecules and biopolymers, protein nanofibril microgels represent a promising class of functional artificial multiscale materials generated from natural building blocks.
Proteinaceous microspheres for targeted RNA delivery prepared by an ultrasonic emulsification method(2013) J. Mater. Chem. B,. 1, p. 82-90 Abstract
In the present work we used sonochemically prepared proteinaceous BSA spheres as a novel RNA-delivery system. The preparation of RNA-loaded BSA spheres was accomplished using an environmental friendly method termed the “ultrasonic emulsification method”. It was demonstrated that ultrasonic waves do not cause the RNA chains to degrade and the RNA molecules remain untouched. The BSA–RNA complex was successfully introduced into mammalian (human) U2OS osteosarcoma cells and Trypanosoma brucei parasites. Using PVA coating of the RNA–BSA spheres we have achieved a significant increase in the number of microspheres penetrating mammalian cells. The mechanism of RNA encapsulation and the structure of the RNA–BSA complex are reported.
(2012) New J. Chem. 36, p. 36-39 Abstract
We demonstrate herein a simple, one-step method for preparing stabilized microspheres of graphene oxide (GO), by applying ultra-sonic power to a biphasic system. The microsphere's size was affected by the pH of the aqueous solution, ranging from a few mm to μm. Further characterization indicated that the microsphere's inner content is composed mainly of organic solvents, though water and GO molecules may be also present at the microsphere's core. The microspheres were stable for several months without a significant conformation change. We predict that the stability arises from hydrophobic and hydrophilic interactions between the GO sheets and the solvents. Changing the organic solvent resulted in changes in the microsphere's morphology.
(2012) ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces.. 4, p. 2926-30 Abstract
The current paper reports on the relase properties of conductive fabrics coated with proteinaceous microspheres containing a dye. The release of the dye was achieved by passing an electric current through the fabric. The conductivity of the polyester fibers resulted from nanosilver (Ag NPs) coated on the surface of these fibers. Both types of coatings (nanosilver coating and the coating of the proteinaceous microspheres) were performed using high-intensity ultrasonic waves. Two different types of dyes, hydrophilic RBBR (Remazol Brilliant Blue R) and hydrophobic ORO (Oil Red O), were encapsulated inside the microspheres (attached to the surface of polyester) and then released by applying an electric current. The Proteinaceous Microsphere (PM)-coated conductive fabrics could be used in medicine for drug release. The encapsulated dye can be replaced with a drug that could be released from the surface of fabrics by applying a low voltage.
Encapsulation of RNA Molecules in BSA Microspheres and Internalization into Trypanosoma Brucei Parasites and Human U2OS Cancer Cells(2011) Advanced Functional Materials. 21, p. 3659-66 Abstract
RNA was encapsulated in bovine serum albumin (BSA) microspheres using a one-step sonochemical process from an water–oil solvent biphasic system. Confocal microcoscopy and fluorescence-activated cell sorting indicate that a CY3-RNA (RNA labeled with red fluorescent indocarbocyanine Cy3 dye) sphere is encapsulated in the BSA outer sphere. The diameter of the sphere depends on the number of nucleotides of the RNA, ranging from 0.63 to 2.74 μm. Total RNA (t-RNA) was used as a prototype for the future small interfering RNA (siRNA) delivery. A very broad size distribution characterizes the RNA spheres and therefore, among the loaded BSA spheres, there were sufficiently small spheres to be successfully introduced into trypanosoma brucei parasites and human osteosarcoma U2OS cancer cells.