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Bond clusters control rupture force limit in shear loaded histidine-Ni2+ metal-coordinated proteins.

  • Khare, Eesha1, 2
  • Grewal, Darshdeep S1, 2
  • Buehler, Markus J2
  • 1 Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
  • 2 Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 33 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. [email protected].
Published Article
The Royal Society of Chemistry
Publication Date
Apr 24, 2023
DOI: 10.1039/d3nr01287e
PMID: 37092811


Dynamic noncovalent interactions are pivotal to the structure and function of biological proteins and have been used in bioinspired materials for similar roles. Metal-coordination bonds, in particular, are especially tunable and enable control over static and dynamic properties when incorporated into synthetic materials. Despite growing efforts to engineer metal-coordination bonds to produce strong, tough, and self-healing materials, the systematic characterization of the exact contribution of these bonds towards mechanical strength and the effect of geometric arrangements is missing, limiting the full design potential of these bonds. In this work, we engineer the cooperative rupture of metal-coordination bonds to increase the rupture strength of metal-coordinated peptide dimers. Utilizing all-atom steered molecular dynamics simulations on idealized bidentate histidine-Ni2+ coordinated peptides, we show that histidine-Ni2+ bonds can rupture cooperatively in groups of two to three bonds. We find that there is a strength limit, where adding additional coordination bonds does not contribute to the additional increase in the protein rupture strength, likely due to the highly heterogeneous rupture behavior exhibited by the coordination bonds. Further, we show that this coordination bond limit is also found natural metal-coordinated biological proteins. Using these insights, we quantitatively suggest how other proteins can be rationally designed with dynamic noncovalent interactions to exhibit cooperative bond breaking behavior. Altogether, this work provides a quantitative analysis of the cooperativity and intrinsic strength limit for metal-coordination bonds with the aim of advancing clear guiding molecular principles for the mechanical design of metal-coordinated materials.

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