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Engineering Protein-Clay Nanosheets Composite Hydrogels with Designed Arginine-rich Proteins

Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids | 16 May 2019

S Lv, T Duan and H Li
Abstract
Clay nanosheets (CNSs) have been widely used in the design of nanocomposite biomaterials. CNSs display a disk-like morphology with strong negatively charged surfaces. It has been shown that guanidinium-containing molecules can bind CNSs through non-covalent salt-bridge interactions and thus serve as “molecular glues” for CNSs. Making use of the guanidinium side chain in arginine, here we designed novel arginine-rich elastomeric proteins to engineer protein-CNS nanocomposite hydrogels. Our results showed that these arginine-rich proteins can interact with CNSs effectively and can crosslink CNSs into hydrogels. Rheological measurements showed that mechanical properties of the resultant hydrogels depended on the arginine content in the arginine-rich proteins, as well as CNS/protein concentration. Compared with hydrogels constructed from CNSs or proteins alone, the novel protein-CNS nanocomposite hydrogels show much improved mechanical properties. Our work opens up a new avenue to engineer functional protein hydrogels for various applications.
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