Genetic engineering of a novel protein–nanoparticle hybrid system with great potential for biosensing applications and for patterning of various types of nanoparticles is described. The hybrid system is based on a genetically modified chaperonin protein from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus shibatae. This chaperonin is an 18-subunit double ring, which self-assembles in the presence of Mg ions and ATP. Described here is a mutant chaperonin (His-β-loopless, HBLL) with increased access to the central cavity and His-tags on each subunit extending into the central cavity. This mutant binds water-soluble semiconductor quantum dots, creating a protein-encapsulated fluorescent nanoparticle. The new bioconjugate has high affinity, in the order of strong antibody–antigen interactions, a one-to-one protein–nanoparticle stoichiometry, and high stability. By adding selective binding sites to the solvent-exposed regions of the chaperonin, this protein–nanoparticle bioconjugate becomes a sensor for specific targets.
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