Self-assembling peptides: from a discovery in a yeast protein to diverse uses and beyond

Zhang, S. (2020) Self-assembling peptides: from a discovery in a yeast protein to diverse uses and beyond. Protein Science DOI:10.1002/pro.3951


 Well‐defined nanofiber scaffold hydrogels made of self‐assembling peptides have found their way into various 3D tissue culture and clinical products. I reflect initial puzzlement of the unexpected discovery, gradual understanding of how these peptides undergo self‐assembly, to eventually translating designer biological scaffolds into commercial products. Peptides are ubiquitous in nature and useful in many fields. They are found as hormones, pheromones, antibacterial, and antifungal agents in innate immunity systems, toxins, as well anti‐inset pesticides. However, the concept of peptides as materials was not recognized until 1990 when a self‐assembling peptide as a repeating segment in a yeast protein was serendipitously discovered. The peptide materials have bona fide materials properties and are made from simple amino acids with well‐ordered nanostructures under physiological conditions. Some current applications include: (a) Real 3D tissue cell cultures of diverse tissue cells and various stem cells; (b) reparative and regenerative medicine as well as tissue engineering; (c) 3D tissue printing; (d) sustained releases of small molecules, growth factors and monoclonal antibodies; and (e) accelerated wound healing of skin and diabetic ulcers as well as instant hemostasis in surgery. Self‐assembling peptide nanobiotechnology will likely continue to expand in many directions in the coming years. I will also briefly introduce my current research using a simple QTY code for membrane protein design. I am greatly honored and humbled to be invited to contribute an Award Winner Recollection of the 2020 Emil Thomas Kaiser Award from the Protein Society.

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