Issue 3, 2023

Fluorescent azobenzene-confined coiled-coil mesofibers


Fluorescent protein biomaterials have important applications such as bioimaging in pharmacological studies. Self-assembly of proteins, especially into fibrils, is known to produce fluorescence in the blue band. Capable of self-assembly into nanofibers, we have shown we can modulate its aggregation into mesofibers by encapsulation of a small hydrophobic molecule. Conversely, azobenzenes are hydrophobic small molecules that are virtually non-fluorescent in solution due to their highly efficient photoisomerization. However, they demonstrate fluorogenic properties upon confinement in nanoscale assemblies by reducing the non-radiative photoisomerization. Here, we report the fluorescence of a hybrid protein-small molecule system in which azobenzene is confined in our protein assembly leading to fiber thickening and increased fluorescence. We show our engineered protein Q encapsulates AzoCholine, bearing a photoswitchable azobenzene moiety, in the hydrophobic pore to produce fluorescent mesofibers. This study further investigates the photocontrol of protein conformation as well as fluorescence of an azobenze-containing biomaterial.

Graphical abstract: Fluorescent azobenzene-confined coiled-coil mesofibers

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
02 Dec 2022
14 Dec 2022
First published
15 Dec 2022

Soft Matter, 2023,19, 497-501

Author version available

Fluorescent azobenzene-confined coiled-coil mesofibers

K. Punia, D. Britton, K. Hüll, L. Yin, Y. Wang, P. D. Renfrew, M. L. Gilchrist, R. Bonneau, D. Trauner and J. K. Montclare, Soft Matter, 2023, 19, 497 DOI: 10.1039/D2SM01578A

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