From sequence to color

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Science  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6342, pp. 1011-1012
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan5198

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Black eumelanin pigments play a key role in determining skin and hair color in humans and other animals. In the body, they are produced by enzymatic conversion of tyrosine to dopaquinone, followed by oxidative polymerization (1). Synthetic eumelanin-type biopolymers—such as mussel-inspired polydopamine (2)—have optical, electronic, and free-radical properties that make them attractive for materials and biomedicine applications. However, it remains difficult to control and tune the properties of eumelanin-type biopolymers. On page 1064 of this issue, Lampel et al. (3) show that tyrosine-containing tripeptides can serve as tunable precursors for polymeric eumelanin-like pigments, with properties that depend on the peptide sequence and the degree of supramolecular order that it imparts.