Protein-Based Biological Materials: Molecular Design and Artificial Production

Ali Miserez, Jing Yu, Pezhman Mohammadi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
114 Downloads (Pure)


Polymeric materials produced from fossil fuels have been intimately linked to the development of industrial activities in the 20th century and, consequently, to the transformation of our way of living. While this has brought many benefits, the fabrication and disposal of these materials is bringing enormous sustainable challenges. Thus, materials that are produced in a more sustainable fashion and whose degradation products are harmless to the environment are urgently needed. Natural biopolymers─which can compete with and sometimes surpass the performance of synthetic polymers─provide a great source of inspiration. They are made of natural chemicals, under benign environmental conditions, and their degradation products are harmless. Before these materials can be synthetically replicated, it is essential to elucidate their chemical design and biofabrication. For protein-based materials, this means obtaining the complete sequences of the proteinaceous building blocks, a task that historically took decades of research. Thus, we start this review with a historical perspective on early efforts to obtain the primary sequences of load-bearing proteins, followed by the latest developments in sequencing and proteomic technologies that have greatly accelerated sequencing of extracellular proteins. Next, four main classes of protein materials are presented, namely fibrous materials, bioelastomers exhibiting high reversible deformability, hard bulk materials, and biological adhesives. In each class, we focus on the design at the primary and secondary structure levels and discuss their interplays with the mechanical response. We finally discuss earlier and the latest research to artificially produce protein-based materials using biotechnology and synthetic biology, including current developments by start-up companies to scale-up the production of proteinaceous materials in an economically viable manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2049-2111
Number of pages63
JournalChemical Reviews
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2023
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


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