In the Conticello lab, we study how sequence-specific biological macromolecules (i.e., proteins and nucleic acids) interact with very high selectivity within the nanometer to micrometer size regime to create the complex cellular machinery that performs the physico-chemical functions associated with metabolism, signal transduction, replication, and differentiation in living systems. These complex biological machines arise from self-assembly of structurally complementary combinations of biomolecules on the basis of structural features programmed into polypeptide and polynucleotide sequences at the molecular level. As a consequence of the near-absolute control of macromolecular architecture that results from such sequence specificity, biological structural platforms may have advantages for the creation of well-defined supramolecular assemblies in comparison to synthetic systems, at least at the current state of development for the latter. Thus, the conceptual design of synthetic nano-scale systems can derive significant information from structural investigations of biologically derived supramolecular assemblies and, conversely, biological structural motifs present an attractive target for the synthesis of artificial nano-scale systems on the basis of relationships between sequence and supramolecular structure that have been established for native biological assemblies. Sequence-specific biological materials represent conceptual and structural prototypes for the design of artificial smart materials and will continue to be the forefront of efforts to develop materials for specialized applications beyond those observed in the native biological context.


Summer 2018