Self-Assembly of Aromatic Amino Acid Enantiomers into Supramolecular Materials of High Rigidity

Santu Bera, Bin Xue, Pavel Rehak, Guy Jacoby, Wei Ji, Linda J.W. Shimon, Roy Beck, Petr Král, Yi Cao, Ehud Gazit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most natural biomolecules may exist in either of two enantiomeric forms. Although in nature, amino acid biopolymers are characterized by l-type homochirality, incorporation of d-amino acids in the design of self-assembling peptide motifs has been shown to significantly alter enzyme stability, conformation, self-assembly behavior, cytotoxicity, and even therapeutic activity. However, while functional metabolite assemblies are ubiquitous throughout nature and play numerous important roles including physiological, structural, or catalytic functions, the effect of chirality on the self-assembly nature and function of single amino acids is not yet explored. Herein, we investigated the self-assembly mechanism of amyloid-like structure formation by two aromatic amino acids, phenylalanine (Phe) and tryptophan (Trp), both previously found as extremely important for the nucleation and self-assembly of aggregation-prone peptide regions into functional structures. Employing d-enantiomers, we demonstrate the critical role that amino acid chirality plays in their self-assembly process. The kinetics and morphology of pure enantiomers is completely altered upon their coassembly, allowing to fabricate different nanostructures that are mechanically more robust. Using diverse experimental techniques, we reveal the different molecular arrangement and self-assembly mechanism of the dl-racemic mixtures that resulted in the formation of advanced supramolecular materials. This study provides a simple yet sophisticated engineering model for the fabrication of attractive materials with bionanotechnological applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1694-1706
Number of pages13
JournalACS Nano
Issue number2
StatePublished - 25 Feb 2020


  • amino acids
  • bionanotechnology
  • chirality
  • functional metabolite
  • nanomaterials
  • self-assembly


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