Inorganic Nanoparticles as Protein Mimics

Science  08 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6001, pp. 188-189
DOI: 10.1126/science.1190094

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Water-soluble inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) and globular proteins (GPs) might seem “as different as chalk and cheese,” especially in the interior. The chemical structure of GPs is usually exact and well-defined, whereas NPs are almost always formed as a mixture of sizes and variation of shapes. The complexity and dynamism of three-dimensional atomic organization inside the protein globules and related functionalities are not present in the impenetrable crystalline cores of NPs. However, NPs and GPs do reveal similarities in overall size, charge, and shape, and the exterior surfaces of NPs can be coated with organic functional groups similar to those exposed by GPs, which suggest that NPs could function as protein mimics. This option is attractive because NPs are usually cheaper and more stable than proteins, but can they actually display the same functionalities and achieve enough specificity to replace proteins?