Protein-based materials carry the potential to combine excellent mechanical properties with inherent biodegradability and valuable functionalities, such as self-healing. Despite substantial progress in the design of artificial protein-based materials, they are yet to reach their full potential.
One of the current limitations is related to so called post-translational modifications, which are covalent modifications of proteins occurring after their biosynthesis. There is accumulating evidence that the post-translational modifications of proteins are essential for the mechanical properties and functionalities of the resulting materials. Yet, the mechanisms behind how these modifications affect the properties of biomaterials are not fully understood, mainly due to technical limitations.
In the Pro2Fun project, I aim to develop methods to produce post-translationally modified structural proteins, including silks and collagens, in bacteria that cannot make the desired modifications naturally. Production in bacteria enables obtaining the proteins in an economical, ethical, and sustainable manner. Furthermore, I will use the modified proteins to engineer novel functional biomaterials, which have the potential to substitute current oil- and animal-based alternatives.