The self-assembly of biomolecules such as the coat proteins (CP) of virus capsids and other protein cages offer great opportunities in nanotechnology and nanomedicine, leading to monodisperse platforms where different chemical species can be organized through covalent or non-covalent bonding. Yet, because the covalent approach for the modification of virus capsids is still a demanding task, efficient and straightforward supramolecular strategies are highly desirable. In this direction, we search for hierarchical and cooperative processes in which self-assembled organic functional materials serve as templates for the assembly of different virus-like particles (VLP) and for their organization into higher-order structures.
J. Mikkila, E. Anaya-Plaza, L. Viljeström, T. Torres, A. de la Escosura,* M. Kostiainen, Hierarchical Organization of Organic Dyes and Protein Cages into Photoactive Crystals. ACS Nano 2016, 10, 1565-1571.
A. de la Escosura,* P. Janssen, A. Schenning, R. Nolte, J. Cornelissen, Encapsulation of DNA-Templated Chromophore Assemblies within Virus Protein Nanotubes. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2010, 49, 5335-5338.
Phthalocyanines (Pc) are an important class of non-natural organic pigments that received considerable attention in the last decades. Due to their extended conjugation, these 18 π-electron macrocyclic aromatic systems absorb intensely at the near-IR spectral region. The energy of the resulting photoinduced excited state can be utilized for different biomedical applications. To this end, the incorporation of Pc into biological nanostructures is highly desirable, because it provides them with better photosensitizing features, and with the capacity to travel and be delivered within biological tissues.
In this respect, one of our main goals (with Prof. Tomás Torres) is to develop novel methodologies to prepare Pc with adequate solubility features and functional groups for their attachment to different biological architectures, including peptides, protein cages, DNA origami, cellulose nanocrystals and carbohydrate dendrimers. With this strategy, the transport of the photosensitizer to the diseased tissue, in PDT treatments and fluorescence imaging, benefits from the biocompatibility imparted by the mentioned nanocarriers and their specific interaction with target cells.
Selected recent publications:
V. Almeida-Marrero, E. van de Winckle, E. Anaya-Plaza, T. Torres, A. de la Escosura,* Porphyrinoid Biohybrid Materials as an Emerging Toolbox for Biomedical Light Management. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2018, 47, 7360-7400. (Cover page)
E. van de Winckle, M. Mascaraque, A. Zamarron, A. Juarranz de la Fuente, T. Torres, A. de la Escosura,* Dual Role of Subphthalocyanine Dyes for Optical Imaging and Therapy of Cancer. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2018, 28, 1705938.
E. Anaya-Plaza, E. van de Winckle, J. Mikkila, J. Malho, O. Ikkala, O. Gulias, R. Bresoli-Obach, M. Agut, S. Nonell, T. Torres, M. Kostiainen, A. de la Escosura,* Photoantimicrobial Biohybrids by Supramolecular Immobilization of Cationic Phthalocyanines onto Cellulose Nanocrytal. Chem. Eur. J. 2017, 23, 1-8. (Cover page)
F. Setaro, M. Brasch, M. S. T. Koay, J. J. L. M. Cornelissen, A. de la Escosura,* T. Torres, Generation-Dependent Templated Self-Assembly of Biohybrid Protein Nanoparticles around Photosensitizer Dendrimers. Nano Lett. 2015, 15, 1245 – 1251.
The study of complex molecular networks is a clear objective of the field so-called Systems Chemistry, which is expected to have a great impact in the area of origins-of-life research as well as in materials science. We are starting to explore this field from both a theoretical and an experimental point of view. Concerning the origins of life, we have developed various theoretical contributions about prebiotic systems chemistry, pointing out the potential of this systems perspective at every level of the biogenesis process.
Selected recent publications:
K. Ruiz-Mirazo, C. Briones, A. de la Escosura,* Chemical Roots of Biological Evolution: the Origins of Life as a Process of Development of Autonomous Functional Systems. Open Biol. 2017, 7, 170050.
A. de la Escosura, C. Briones, K. Ruíz-Mirazo, The Systems Perspective at the Crossroads Between Chemistry and Biology. J. Theor. Biol. 2015, 381, 11-22.
K. Ruiz-Mirazo, C. Briones, A. de la Escosura,* Prebiotic Systems Chemistry: New Perspectives for the Origins of Life. Chem. Rev. 2014, 114, 285 – 366.