Control of peptide nanotube diameter by chemical modifications of an aromatic residue involved in a single close contact
Supramolecular self-assembly is an attractive pathway for bottomup synthesis of novel nanomaterials. In particular, this approach allows the spontaneous formation of structures of well-defined shapes and monodisperse characteristic sizes. Because nanotechnology mainly relies on size-dependent physical phenomena, the control of monodispersity is required, but the possibility of tuning the size is also essential. For self-assembling systems, shape, size, and monodispersity are mainly settled by the chemical structure of the building block. Attempts to change the size notably by chemical modification usually end up with the loss of self-assembly. Here, we generated a library of 17 peptides forming nanotubes of monodisperse diameter ranging from 10 to 36 nm. A structural model taking into account close contacts explains how a modification of a few Å of a single aromatic residue induces a fourfold increase in nanotube diameter. The application of such a strategy is demonstrated by the formation of silica nanotubes of various diameters.