Proteins are biological polymers that fold and assemble into sophisticated nanoscale structures. Harnessing protein folding and interactions for nanotechnology is a promising ‘bottom-up’ approach to engineering nanoscale materials that display unprecedented properties. We engineer novel protein nanomaterials for biological and biomedical applications by exploiting our understanding and knowledge about protein folding and interactions.

Coiled-Coil Protein Origami

Coiled coils are α-helical protein motifs that wrap each other into supercoiled complexes. They are powerful building tools with exciting features, such as the capacity to manipulate binding specificity, affinity, oligomeric state, physical length, and helix orientation. Coiled-coil origami is an approach to create 2D or 3D shapes at the nanoscale through folding and assembly of combined coiled-coil protein modules. This ‘bottom-up’ approach enables precise design and fabrication of nanostructures with remarkable controls over molecular dimensions and dynamics at the nanoscale. We apply the protein origami nanomaterials for solving problems in biosensors, nanorobotics, and nanomanufacturing.

Related Publications: W. M. Park, M. Bedewy, K. K. Berggren, A. E. Keating, Sci. Rep. 2017, 7, 10577.

Nanocaged Protein Biocatalysts

Protein cages are self-assembled structures with hollow cavities. In nature, many cage-like structures play essential roles in delivery and functional regulation of biomolecules. In engineering applications, protein cages can be used to encapsulate functional proteins to solve problems in biocatalysis and drug delivery. Potential advantages of packaging enzymes into cages include improved enzyme stability, protection of cargo from proteolysis, and increased substrate-selective permeability. We engineer novel enzyme-packaging nanocages with tuned physical and biocatalytic properties for desirable applications in biosensors, bioprocesses, and nanomedicine.

Related Publications: W. M. Park, J. A. Champion, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 17906 - 17909.

Protein-Engineered Hybrid Nanomaterials

Nanostructured proteins are attractive as templates that enable near-room-temperature synthesis hybrid materials in aqueous environments as well as growth of nanophase materials in complex shapes and morphologies. We design recombinant fusion proteins that are programmed to assemble, nucleate, and grow complex-shaped hybrid nanostructures that display exceptional physical, optical, or electronic properties.

Related Publications: W. M. Park, J. A. Champion, ACS Nano 2016, 10, 8271 - 8280.