The group is studying enzyme-triggered self-assembly of small molecules to generate nanospheres and nanofibres. Applications for these biomaterials include drug delivery and tissue engineering. As shown in the images above, a water soluble phosphorated tetrapeptide derivative can be converted into a smaller, more hydrophobic molecule. Both of the small molecules are then co-assembled into nanospheres. The size of the nanospheres is controlled by both the enzyme concentration and the precursor concentration.

Interestingly, the nanospheres cannot form without the assistance of the enzyme, which means that the enzyme plays a central role in the formation of the nanospheres. Such self-assembled nanospheres can help cell-impermeable dye molecules to penetrate into cells.

The strategy of using the enzyme to trigger the self-assembly of small molecules provides a simple and convenient method to control the morphology of resulting nanostructures and generate biomaterials for drug delivery and tissue engineering. It also offers a simple platform to understand the formation of self-assembled nanostructures in biological systems, such as β-amyloid fibre.

Further information can be found in the journal Nanotechnology.