Biomacromolecules. 2007 Oct ; 8(10): 2990-4

Stimulus-responsive, or "smart" protein-based hydrogels are of interest for many bioengineering applications, but have yet to include biological activity independent of structural functionality. We have genetically engineered bifunctional building blocks incorporating fluorescent proteins that self-assemble into robust and active hydrogels. Gelation occurs when protein building blocks are cross-linked through native protein-protein interactions and the aggregation of alpha-helical hydrogel-forming appendages. Building blocks constructed from different fluorescent proteins can be mixed to enable tuning of fluorescence loading and hydrogel strength with a high degree of independence. FRET experiments suggest a macro-homogeneous structure and that intragel and interprotein reactions can be engineered. This design approach will enable the facile construction of complex hydrogels with broad applicability.