Order/Disorder in Protein and Peptide-Based Biomaterials

Rein V. Ulijn, Ayala Lampel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nature utilizes both order and disorder (or controlled disorder) to achieve exceptional materials properties and functions, while synthetic supramolecular materials mostly exploit just supramolecular order, thus limiting the structural diversity, responsiveness and consequent adaptive functions that can be accessed. Herein, we review the emerging field of supramolecular biomaterials where disorder and order deliberately co-exist, and can be dynamically regulated by considering both entropic and enthalpic factors in design. We focus on sequence-structure relationships that govern the (cooperative) assembly pathways of protein and peptide building blocks in these materials. Increasingly, there is an interest in introducing dynamic features in protein and peptide-based structures, such as the remarkable thermo-responsiveness and exceptional mechanical properties of elastin materials. Simultaneously, advances in the field of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) give new insights about their involvement in intracellular liquid-liquid phase separation and formation of disordered, dynamic coacervate structures. These have inspired efforts to design biomaterials with similar dynamic properties. These hybrid ordered/disordered materials employ a combination of intramolecular and supramolecular order/disorder features for construction of assemblies that are dynamically reconfigurable. The assembly of these dynamic structures is mainly entropy-driven, relying on electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions and is mediated in part through the adopted (unstructured) protein conformation or by introducing an oppositely charged guest for peptide building blocks. Examples include design of protein building blocks composed of disordered repeat sequences of elastin-like polypeptides in combination with ordered regions that adopt a secondary structure, the co-assembly of proteins with peptide amphiphiles to achieve reconfigurable, yet highly stable membranes or tyrosine-containing tripeptides with sequence-controlled order/disorder that upon enzymatic oxidation give rise to melanin-like polymeric pigments with customizable properties. The resulting hybrid materials with controlled disorder can be metastable, and sensitive to various external stimuli giving rise to insights that are especially attractive for the design of responsive and adaptive materials.

Original languageEnglish
JournalIsrael Journal of Chemistry
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Self-assembly
  • biomaterials
  • peptide
  • protein
  • supramolecular order-disorder


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