Biomimetic virus-based colourimetric sensors

Jin Woo Oh, Woo Jae Chung, Kwang Heo, Hyo Eon Jin, Byung Yang Lee, Eddie Wang, Chris Zueger, Winnie Wong, Joel Meyer, Chuntae Kim, So Young Lee, Won Geun Kim, Marcin Zemla, Manfred Auer, Alexander Hexemer, Seung Wuk Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Citations (Scopus)


Many materials in nature change colours in response to stimuli, making them attractive for use as sensor platform. However, both natural materials and their synthetic analogues lack selectivity towards specific chemicals, and introducing such selectivity remains a challenge. Here we report the self-assembly of genetically engineered viruses (M13 phage) into target-specific, colourimetric biosensors. The sensors are composed of phage-bundle nanostructures and exhibit viewing-angle independent colour, similar to collagen structures in turkey skin. On exposure to various volatile organic chemicals, the structures rapidly swell and undergo distinct colour changes. Furthermore, sensors composed of phage displaying trinitrotoluene (TNT)-binding peptide motifs identified from a phage display selectively distinguish TNT down to 300 p.p.b. over similarly structured chemicals. Our tunable, colourimetric sensors can be useful for the detection of a variety of harmful toxicants and pathogens to protect human health and national security.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3043
JournalNature communications
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan 21

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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