Photocrosslinkable, protein-engineered biomaterials combine a rapid, controllable, cytocompatible crosslinking method with a modular design strategy to create a new family of bioactive materials. These materials have a wide range of biomedical applications, including the development of bioactive implant coatings, drug delivery vehicles, and tissue engineering scaffolds. We present the successful functionalization of a bioactive elastin-like protein with photoreactive diazirine moieties. Scalable synthesis is achieved using a standard recombinant protein expression host followed by site-specific modification of lysine residues with a heterobifunctional N-hydroxysuccinimide ester–diazirine crosslinker. The resulting biomaterial is demonstrated to be processable by spin coating, drop casting, soft lithographic patterning, and mold casting to fabricate a variety of two- and three-dimensional photocrosslinked biomaterials with length scales spanning the nanometre to millimetre range. Protein thin films proved to be highly stable over a three-week period. Cell-adhesive functional domains incorporated into the engineered protein materials were shown to remain active post-photo-processing. Human adipose-derived stem cells achieved faster rates of cell adhesion and larger spread areas on thin films of the engineered protein compared to control substrates. The ease and scalability of material production, processing versatility, and modular bioactive functionality make this recombinantly engineered protein an ideal candidate for the development of novel biomaterial coatings, films, and scaffolds.
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