Fibrillogenesis from nanosurfaces: multiphoton imaging and stereological analysis of collagen 3D self-assembly dynamics†
The assembly of proteins into fibrillar structures is an important process that concerns different biological contexts, including molecular medicine and functional biomaterials. Engineering of hybrid biomaterials can advantageously provide synergetic interactions of the biopolymers with an inorganic component to ensure specific supramolecular organization and dynamics. To this aim, we designed hybrid systems associating collagen and surface-functionalized silica particles and we built a new strategy to investigate fibrillogenesis processes in such multicomponents systems, working at the crossroads of chemistry, physics and mathematics. The self-assembly process was investigated by bimodal multiphoton imaging coupling second harmonic generation (SHG) and 2 photon excited fluorescence (2PEF). The in-depth spatial characterization of the system was further achieved using the three-dimensional analysis of the SHG/2PEF data via mathematical morphology processing. Quantitation of collagen distribution around particles offers strong evidence that the chemically induced confinement of the protein on the silica nanosurfaces has a key influence on the spatial extension of fibrillogenesis. This new approach is unique in the information it can provide on 3D dynamic hybrid systems and may be extended to other associations of fibrillar molecules with optically responsive nano-objects.