‘Breakthrough’ research could simplify design of food gels

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

‘Breakthrough’ research could simplify design of food gels

Related tags Amino acid Protein

A new screening method that predicts how peptides combine to form gels could dramatically simplify the discovery of functional gels for use in food.

The research, published in Nature Chemistry​, describes a new method to screen peptides for their potential use as a biological gel for food applications.

Until now, discovery of new gels relied largely on chance discoveries, explained the team led by Dr Tell Tuttle from the University of Strathclyde and Professor Rein Ulijn from City University of New York.

"It is our aim to design structures based on peptides that are inspired by biology, but are much simpler, making them scalable, tunable, robust and functional and we now have predictive methods to achieve this,”​ said Ulijn.

The number of possible sequences of amino acids is huge, meaning it is not feasible to test them all - previously limiting the discovery of new candidate peptides for specific applications.

"There are 8,000 possible tripeptides and we have developed computational methods to predict which of these could be used to develop materials with desirable properties,”​ said Tuttle.

"These methods led to the discovery of a new family of simple tripeptides that are able to form hydrogels at neutral pH,”​ he suggested. “These materials are much simpler compared to the gels of biological systems but they have some interesting properties that may be exploited in various areas."

New method

The authors noted that peptides that self-assemble into nanostructures are of tremendous interest for a variety of industries and applications – from food manufacturing, to cosmetics, and biomedicine.

“Here, we demonstrate computational tools to screen for the aqueous self-assembly propensity in all of the 8,000 possible tripeptides and evaluate these by comparison with known examples,”​ said the team.

“We applied filters to select for candidates that simultaneously optimize the apparently contradicting requirements of aggregation propensity and hydrophilicity, which resulted in a set of design rules for self-assembling sequences,”​ they explained.

The authors then subsequently synthesised and characterized a number of peptides were, including the first reported tripeptides that are able to form a hydrogel at neutral pH.

“These tools, which enable the peptide sequence space to be searched for supramolecular properties, enable minimalistic peptide nanotechnology to deliver on its promise,”​ they said.

Source: Nature Chemistry
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1038/nchem.2122
“Exploring the sequence space for (tri-)peptide self-assembly to design and discover new hydrogels”
Authors: Pim W. J. M. Frederix, et al

Related topics Science

Related news

Follow us


View more