Author(s): Del Mercato LL, Pompa PP, Maruccio G, Della Torre A, Sabella S,
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Abstract The self-assembly of polypeptides into stable, conductive, and intrinsically fluorescent biomolecular nanowires is reported. We have studied the morphology and electrical conduction of fibrils made of an elastin-related polypeptide, poly(ValGlyGlyLeuGly). These amyloid-like nanofibrils, with a diameter ranging from 20 to 250 nm, result from self-assembly in aqueous solution at neutral pH. Their morphological properties and conductivity have been investigated by atomic force microscopy, scanning tunneling microscopy, and two-terminal transport experiments at the micro- and nanoscales. We demonstrate that the nanofibrils can sustain significant electrical conduction in the solid state at ambient conditions and have remarkable stability. We also show intrinsic blue-green fluorescence of the nanofibrils by confocal microscopy analyses. These results indicate that direct (label-free) excitation can be used to investigate the aggregation state or the polymorphism of amyloid-like fibrils (and possibly of other proteinaceous material) and open up interesting perspectives for the use of peptide-based nanowire structures, with tunable physical and chemical properties, for a wide range of nanobiotechnological and bioelectronic applications.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Physical Chemistry & Biophysics