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Scientific reports

Segmented molecular design of self-healing proteinaceous materials.


PMID 26323335

Abstract

Hierarchical assembly of self-healing adhesive proteins creates strong and robust structural and interfacial materials, but understanding of the molecular design and structure-property relationships of structural proteins remains unclear. Elucidating this relationship would allow rational design of next generation genetically engineered self-healing structural proteins. Here we report a general self-healing and -assembly strategy based on a multiphase recombinant protein based material. Segmented structure of the protein shows soft glycine- and tyrosine-rich segments with self-healing capability and hard beta-sheet segments. The soft segments are strongly plasticized by water, lowering the self-healing temperature close to body temperature. The hard segments self-assemble into nanoconfined domains to reinforce the material. The healing strength scales sublinearly with contact time, which associates with diffusion and wetting of autohesion. The finding suggests that recombinant structural proteins from heterologous expression have potential as strong and repairable engineering materials.