Proton-Conductive Melanin-Like Fibers through Enzymatic Oxidation of a Self-Assembling Peptide

Adv Mater. 2020 Nov;32(46):e2003511. doi: 10.1002/adma.202003511. Epub 2020 Oct 15.


Melanin pigments have various properties that are of technological interest including photo- and radiation protection, rich coloration, and electronic functions. Nevertheless, laboratory-based synthesis of melanin and melanin-like materials with morphologies and chemical structures that are specifically optimized for these applications, is currently not possible. Here, melanin-like materials that are produced by enzymatic oxidation of a supramolecular tripeptide structures that are rich in tyrosine and have a 1D morphology are demonstrated, that are retained during the oxidation process while conducting tracks form through oxidative tyrosine crosslinking. Specifically, a minimalistic self-assembling peptide, Lys-Tyr-Tyr (KYY) with strong propensity to form supramolecular fibers, is utilized. Analysis by Raman spectroscopy shows that the tyrosines are pre-organized inside these fibers and, upon enzymatic oxidation, result in connected catechols. These form 1D conducting tracks along the length of the fiber, which gives rise to a level of internal disorder, but retention of the fiber morphology. This results in highly conductive structures demonstrated to be dominated by proton conduction. This work demonstrates the ability to control oxidation but retain a well-defined fibrous morphology that does not have a known equivalent in biology, and demonstrate exceptional conductivity that is enhanced by enzymatic oxidation.

Keywords: melanin; peptides; proton conduction; self-assembly; supramolecular materials.

MeSH terms

  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Melanins / chemistry*
  • Oligopeptides / chemistry*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Protons*


  • Enzymes
  • Melanins
  • Oligopeptides
  • Protons