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Electrical Conductivity, Selective Adhesion, and Biocompatibility in Bacteria-Inspired Peptide-Metal Self-Supporting Nanocomposites.


Bacterial type IV pili (T4P) are polymeric protein nanofibers that have diverse biological roles. Their unique physicochemical properties mark them as a candidate biomaterial for various applications, yet difficulties in producing native T4P hinder their utilization. Recent effort to mimic the T4P of the metal-reducing Geobacter sulfurreducens bacterium led to the design of synthetic peptide building blocks, which self-assemble into T4P-like nanofibers. Here, it is reported that the T4P-like peptide nanofibers efficiently bind metal oxide particles and reduce Au ions analogously to their native counterparts, and thus give rise to versatile and multifunctional peptide-metal nanocomposites. Focusing on the interaction with Au ions, a combination of experimental and computational methods provides mechanistic insight into the formation of an exceptionally dense Au nanoparticle (AuNP) decoration of the nanofibers. Characterization of the thus-formed peptide-AuNPs nanocomposite reveals enhanced thermal stability, electrical conductivity from the single-fiber level up, and substrate-selective adhesion. Exploring its potential applications, it is demonstrated that the peptide-AuNPs nanocomposite can act as a reusable catalytic coating or form self-supporting immersible films of desired shapes. The films scaffold the assembly of cardiac cells into synchronized patches, and present static charge detection capabilities at the macroscale. The study presents a novel T4P-inspired biometallic material.

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