Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Jeffery G. Saven


Peptides present complicated three-dimensional folds encoded in primary amino acid sequences of no more than 50 residues, providing cost-effective routes to the development of self-assembling nanomaterials.� The complexity and subtlety of the molecular interactions in such systems make it interesting to study and to understand the fundamental principles that determine the self-assembly of nanostructures and morphologies in solution. Such principles can then be applied to design novel self-assembling nanomaterials of precisely defined local structures and to controllably engineer new advanced functions into the materials. We first report the rational engineering of complementary hydrophobic interactions to control β-fibril type peptide self-assemblies that form hydrogel networks. Complementary to the experimental observations of the two distinct branching morphologies present in the two β-fibril systems that share a similar sequence pattern, we investigated on network branching, hydrogel properties by molecular dynamics simulations to provide a molecular picture of the assemblies. Next, we present the theory-guided computational design of novel peptides that adopt predetermined local nanostructures and symmetries upon solution assembly. Using such an approach, we discovered a non-natural, single peptide tetra-helical motif that can be used as a common building block for distinct predefined material nanostructures. The crystal structure of one designed peptide assembly demonstrates the atomistic match of the motif structure to the prediction, as well as provides fundamental feedback to the methods used to design and evaluate the computationally designed peptide candidates. This study could potentially improve the success rate of future designs of peptide-based self-assembling nanomaterials.

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