The group is studying enzyme-triggered formation of nanostructures based on hydrophobic small molecules. The aim of using hydrophobic small molecules to form nanostructures is to generate biomaterials with good stability in aqueous solutions for drug delivery and tissue engineering. As shown in the images above, a water soluble phosphorated tetrapeptide derivative (1) can be converted into a smaller, more hydrophobic molecule (2). Both of the small molecules are then co-assembled into leaf-like structures, which form a small molecular hydrogel.

Similar to the recent result reported in Nanotechnology from the same group, the gel couldn't form without the assistance of phosphatase. Both results indicate that enzyme plays a central role in the formation of such kinds of stable nanostructures in aqueous solutions.

The strategy of using enzyme to produce hydrophobic small molecules provides a simple but powerful tool to cast water-dispersed nanostructures for biosensing, drug delivery, tissue engineering and other applications.

More information can be found in the journal Nanotechnology.