Among inorganic materials, divalent cations modulate thousands of physiological processes that support life. Their roles in protein assembly and aggregation are less known, although they are progressively being brought to light. We review the structural roles of divalent cations here, as well as the novel protein materials that are under development, in which they are used as glue-like agents. More specifically, we discuss how mechanically stable nanoparticles, fibers, matrices, and hydrogels are generated through their coordination with histidine-rich proteins. We also describe how the rational use of divalent cations combined with simple protein engineering offers unexpected and very simple biochemical approaches to biomaterial design that might address unmet clinical needs in precision medicine.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)992-1003
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Biochemical Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • biomaterials
  • functional amyloids
  • nanobiotechnology
  • protein engineering
  • secretory granules
  • sustained drug release


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