Noncovalent Protein and Peptide Functionalization of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes for Biodelivery and Optical Sensing Applications

The exquisite structural and optical characteristics of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), combined with the tunable specificities of proteins and peptides, can be exploited to strongly benefit technologies with applications in fields ranging from biomedicine to industrial biocatalysis. The key to exploiting the synergism of these materials is designing protein/peptide-SWCNT conjugation schemes that preserve biomolecule activity while keeping the near-infrared optical and electronic properties of SWCNTs intact. Since sp2 bond-breaking disrupts the optoelectronic properties of SWCNTs, noncovalent conjugation strategies are needed to interface biomolecules to the nanotube surface for optical biosensing and delivery applications. An underlying understanding of the forces contributing to protein and peptide interaction with the nanotube is thus necessary to identify the appropriate conjugation design rules for specific applications. This article explores the molecular interactions that govern the adsorption of peptides and proteins on SWCNT surfaces, elucidating contributions from individual amino acids as well as secondary and tertiary protein structure and conformation. Various noncovalent conjugation strategies for immobilizing peptides, homopolypeptides, and soluble and membrane proteins on SWCNT surfaces are presented, highlighting studies focused on developing near-infrared optical sensors and molecular scaffolds for self-assembly and biochemical analysis. The analysis presented herein suggests that though direct adsorption of proteins and peptides onto SWCNTs can be principally applied to drug and gene delivery, in vivo imaging and targeting, or cancer therapy, nondirect conjugation strategies using artificial or natural membranes, polymers, or linker molecules are often better suited for biosensing applications that require conservation of biomolecular functionality or precise control of the biomolecule’s orientation. These design rules are intended to provide the reader with a rational approach to engineering biomolecule-SWCNT platforms, broadening the breadth and accessibility of both wild-type and engineered biomolecules for SWCNT-based applications.

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