Enzyme-assisted self-assembly under thermodynamic control

Richard Williams, Andrew Smith, Richard Collins, Nigel Hodson, Apurba Das, Rein Vincent Ulijn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

399 Citations (Scopus)


The production of functional molecular architectures through self-assembly is commonplace in biology, but despite advances1, 2, 3, it is still a major challenge to achieve similar complexity in the laboratory. Self-assembled structures that are reproducible and virtually defect free are of interest for applications in three-dimensional cell culture4, 5, templating6, biosensing7 and supramolecular electronics. Here, we report the use of reversible enzyme-catalysed reactions to drive self-assembly. In this approach, the self-assembly of aromatic short peptide derivatives9, 10 provides a driving force that enables a protease enzyme to produce building blocks in a reversible and spatially confined manner. We demonstrate that this system combines three features: (i) self-correction—fully reversible self-assembly under thermodynamic control; (ii) component-selection—the ability to amplify the most stable molecular self-assembly structures in dynamic combinatorial libraries11, 12, 13; and (iii) spatiotemporal confinement of nucleation and structure growth. Enzyme-assisted self-assembly therefore provides control in bottom-up fabrication of nanomaterials that could ultimately lead to functional nanostructures with enhanced complexities and fewer defects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-24
Number of pages6
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number1
Early online date21 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • thermodynamic control
  • self-assembly
  • enzymes
  • supramolecular electronics


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