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Nat Mater. 2005 Apr;4(4):298-302.

Genetically engineered protein in hydrogels tailors stimuli-responsive characteristics.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40506, USA.


Certain proteins undergo a substantial conformational change in response to a given stimulus. This conformational change can manifest in different manners and result in an actuation, that is, catalytic or signalling event, movement, interaction with other proteins, and so on. In all cases, the sensing-actuation process of proteins is initiated by a recognition event that translates into a mechanical action. Thus, proteins are ideal components for designing new nanomaterials that are intelligent and can perform desired mechanical actions in response to target stimuli. A number of approaches have been undertaken to mimic nature's sensing-actuating process. We now report a new hybrid material that integrates genetically engineered proteins within hydrogels capable of producing a stimulus-responsive action mechanism. The mechanical effect is a result of an induced conformational change and binding affinities of the protein in response to a stimulus. The stimuli-responsive hydrogel exhibits three specific swelling stages in response to various ligands offering additional fine-tuned control over a conventional two-stage swelling hydrogel. The newly prepared material was used in the sensing, and subsequent gating and transport of biomolecules across a polymer network, demonstrating its potential application in microfluidics and miniaturized drug-delivery systems.

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