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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics