The high hydrophobicity of fullerenes and the resulting formation of aggregates in aqueous solutions hamper the possibility of their exploitation in many technological applications. Noncovalent bioconjugation of fullerenes with proteins is an emerging approach for their dispersion in aqueous media. Contrary to covalent functionalization, bioconjugation preserves the physicochemical properties of the carbon nanostructure. The unique photophysical and photochemical properties of fullerenes are then fully accessible for applications in nanomedicine, sensoristic, biocatalysis and materials science fields. However, proteins are not universal carriers. Their stability depends on the biological conditions for which they have evolved. Here we present two model systems based on pepsin and trypsin. These proteins have opposite net charge at physiological pH. They recognize and disperse C60
in water. UV-Vis spectroscopy, zeta-potential and atomic force microscopy analysis demonstrates that the hybrids are well dispersed and stable in a wide range of pH’s and ionic strengths. A previously validated modelling approach identifies the protein-binding pocket involved in the interaction with C60
. Computational predictions, combined with experimental investigations, provide powerful tools to design tailor-made C60
@proteins bioconjugates for specific applications.
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