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J Am Chem Soc. 2017 Mar 15;139(10):3796-3804. doi: 10.1021/jacs.6b13146. Epub 2017 Mar 1.

Analysis and Control of Chain Mobility in Protein Hydrogels.

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Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology , 1200 East California Boulevard, MC 210-41, Pasadena, California 91125, United States.


Coiled-coil domains can direct the assembly of protein block copolymers into physically cross-linked, viscoelastic hydrogels. Here, we describe the use of fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) to probe chain mobility in reversible hydrogels assembled from engineered proteins bearing terminal coiled-coil domains. We show that chain mobility can be related to the underlying dynamics of the coiled-coil domains by application of a three-state "hopping" model of chain migration. We further show that genetic programming allows the effective mobility of network chains to be varied 500-fold through modest changes in protein sequence. Destabilization of the coiled-coil domains by site-directed mutagenesis increases the effective diffusivity of probe chains. Conversely, probe mobility is reduced by expanding the hydrophobic surface area of the coiled-coil domains through introduction of the bulky leucine surrogate homoisoleucine. Predictions from the three-state model imply asymmetric sequential binding of the terminal domains. Brownian Dynamics simulations suggest that binding asymmetry is a general feature of reversible gels, arising from a loss in entropy as chains transition to a conformationally restricted bridged state.

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