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J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Nov 10;132(44):15632-6. doi: 10.1021/ja104373e.

Elementary building blocks of self-assembled peptide nanotubes.

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Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.


In the world of biology, "self-assembly" is the ability of biological entities to interact with one another to form supramolecular structures. One basic group of self-assembled structures is peptide nanotubes (PNTs). However, the self-assembly mechanism, with its special characteristics, is not yet fully understood. An exceptional quantum-confined approach is shown here for the self-assembly mechanism in bio-inspired materials. We found the elementary building block of the studied PNT, which is self-assembled from short peptides composed of two phenylalanine residues, to be 0D-quantum-confined (can be related to confinement in 3D), also called a quantum dot (QD). This elementary building block can further self-assemble to a PNT formation. It has been observed that the assembly process of dots to tubes and the disassembly process of tubes to dots are reversible. We further show that a similar dipeptide can also self-assemble to a QD-like structure, with different dimensions. The presented peptide QD structures are nanometer-sized structures, with pronounced exciton effects, which may promote the use of an entirely new kind of organic QDs.

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