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Nano Lett. 2006 Apr;6(4):616-21.

Structural and mechanical study of a self-assembling protein nanotube.

Author information

  • 1NIZO food research, P.O. Box 20, 6710 BA Ede, The Netherlands. joanke@mit.edu


We report a structural characterization of self-assembling nanostructures. Using atomic force microscopy (AFM), we discovered that partially hydrolyzed alpha-lactalbumin organizes in a 10-start helix forming tubes with diameters of only 21 nm. We probed the mechanical strength of these nanotubes by locally indenting them with an AFM tip. To extract the material properties of the nanotubes, we modeled the experiment using finite element methods. Our study shows that artificial helical protein self-assembly can yield very stable, strong structures that can function either as a model system for artificial self-assembly or as a nanostructure with potential for practical applications.

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