Reversibly photo-modulating mechanical stiffness and toughness of bioengineered protein fibers

Kai Liu*, Jing Sun, Chao Ma, Sourav Maity, Fan Wang, Yu Zhou, Giuseppe Portale, Robert Göstl, Wouter H Roos, Hongjie Zhang, Andreas Herrmann

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Light-responsive materials have been extensively studied due to the attractive possibility of manipulating their properties with high spatiotemporal control in a non-invasive fashion. This stimulated the development of a series of photo-deformable smart devices. However, it remained a challenge to reversibly modulate the stiffness and toughness of bulk materials. Here, we present bioengi-neered protein fibers and their optomechanical manipulation by employing electrostatic interactions between supercharged polypeptides (SUPs) and an azobenzene (Azo)-based surfactant. Photo-isomerization of the Azo moiety from the E - to Z -form reversibly triggered the modulation of tensile strength, stiffness, and toughness of the bulk protein fiber. Specifically, the photo-induced rearrangement into the Z-form of Azo possibly strengthened cation-π interactions within the fiber material resulting in around twofold increase in the fiber's mechanical performance. The outstanding mechanical and responsive properties open a path towards the development of SUP-Azo fibers as smart stimuli-responsive mechano-biomaterials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3222-3228
Number of pages7
JournalAngewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)
Volume60
Issue number6
Early online date2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8-Feb-2021

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