Molecular biomimetics: nanotechnology through biology

Nat Mater. 2003 Sep;2(9):577-85. doi: 10.1038/nmat964.


Proteins, through their unique and specific interactions with other macromolecules and inorganics, control structures and functions of all biological hard and soft tissues in organisms. Molecular biomimetics is an emerging field in which hybrid technologies are developed by using the tools of molecular biology and nanotechnology. Taking lessons from biology, polypeptides can now be genetically engineered to specifically bind to selected inorganic compounds for applications in nano- and biotechnology. This review discusses combinatorial biological protocols, that is, bacterial cell surface and phage-display technologies, in the selection of short sequences that have affinity to (noble) metals, semiconducting oxides and other technological compounds. These genetically engineered proteins for inorganics (GEPIs) can be used in the assembly of functional nanostructures. Based on the three fundamental principles of molecular recognition, self-assembly and DNA manipulation, we highlight successful uses of GEPI in nanotechnology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemical synthesis
  • Biomimetic Materials / chemical synthesis*
  • Biomimetic Materials / chemistry
  • Biomimetics / methods*
  • Crystallization / methods*
  • Inorganic Chemicals / chemistry
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nanotechnology / instrumentation
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Proteins / chemistry*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Inorganic Chemicals
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Proteins