Biomineralization is the ability of organisms to extract compounds from the environment to build functional structures under biological conditions. Our model organism are diatoms that build up their cell wall from (it is from or of) silicate due to the presence of oppositely charged polyelectrolyte complexes (PEC). As the role of positively charged polyamines has been well described in the literature, our focus is on the function of the phosphorylated peptides in this process. They are responsible for the negative charge in the PEC system and have a significant function in the biomineralization process. The degree of phosphorylation affects the formation of PECs and high value (33 %) is remarkable.
In my PhD-project, I investigate the physicochemical behavior of various highly phosphorylated peptides or artificial polyelectrolytes regarding to the aggregation of opposite charged PECs and their influence in final silicate structures.
The “protein-like polymers” as structural analogs are synthesized by planned copolymerization (ATRP) or chemical functionalization processes. Afterwards, their physicochemical behavior in PECs and silicate precipitation is examined by suitable model experiments.