The Gazit Group at Tel Aviv University studies the molecular self-assembly of biological and bio-inspired supramolecular entities. Using a reductionist approach, we analyzed polypeptides and proteins that form amyloid nano-assemblies in degenerative disease including Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s disease and Type II diabetes. Our systematic analysis of progressively shorter building blocks allowed the identification of extremely short self-associating motifs as short as dipeptides and even single amino acids. The recognition and exploration of the minimal fragments allowed us to pinpoint residues that play a role in the molecular recognition and self-assembly process. Based on the mechanistic insights, we identified and developed new ways to control amyloid formation.
The ability to form regular nano-structures led to the field of nanotechnology. Various architectures were identified including nanotubes, nanospheres, nano-fibrils, and hydrogel with nano-scale order. We demonstrated that the peptide nanostructures have unique chemical and physical properties including remarkable mechanical rigidity, semi-conductivity, piezoelectricity and non-linear optical properties. Application of the nanostructures was demonstrated in various fields including electrochemical biosensors, tissue engineering, and molecular imaging. We developed ways of depositing the peptide nanostructures and their organization. We used inkjet technology as well as vapor deposition methods to coat surfaces and form the peptide Ðnano-forestsÓ. Another recent development relates to the coverage of DNA nanotechnology and peptide nanotechnology: The combination of DNA properties and peptide backbone in the form of Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA) resulted in guanine containing light emitting assemblies that exhibit both aromatic stacking and Watson-Crick base-pairing.