Dr. Humenik, Martin

Open Resume

Hybrid Materials

Application of the self-assembly principles to control nano- and micro scaled structuring of biomaterials is in focus of our group. Self-assembly is based on thermodynamics-driven autonomous mechanism of non-covalent interactions between distinct building blocks. Such “bottom up” formation of structures at different hierarchical levels is inspired by natural processes. These enable highly organized materials with exceptional properties such as bones, shells or spider silks.

Examples of our research comprise DNA-protein hybrid constructs based on recombinant spider silk and specifically designed nucleic acid sequences, as well as fusion proteins. The DNA-protein hybrids take advantage of nucleic acids that self-assemble with precision and predictability, e.g. as in DNA origami programming and folding, and spider silk protein assembling into nanofibrils with high environmental and chemical stability as well as mechanical rigidity. For the fusion proteins, we introduce new functions to the self-assembling spider silk domain using genetic fusions. By controlling both the fusion and assembly process, the structural and functional features can be retained.

Through our research, we pursue the generation of complex nano- to microscaled materials with controlled deposition of functionalities as ligand binding, catalytic and/or light emitting. This allows the creation of novel nanostructured and hierarchically ordered materials for development of sophisticated composite devices.

Research Projects

Dr. Humenik, Martin


0921-55 6725

Fusion proteins

We introduce new functions to the self-assembling spider silk domain using genetic fusions. As an example, GFP was successfully fused on the C-terminus with the recombinant spider silk. Both moieties, the silk and the GFP, retained native structures in the fusion as well as respective properties, the self-assembly of the silk in to fibrils and hydrogels as well as fluorescent activity of the GFP.

Fig. 3: Functional protein hybrids prepared by fusion of globular and structuring moieties. Schematic representation of GFP (1EMA) fused to the spider silk eADF4(C16). The protein self-assembled into fluorescently active nanoscopic fibrils, which were processed into hydrogels.

Dr. Humenik, Martin


0921-55 6725

DNA-protein hybrids

Nucleic acids could self-assemble into many different nano-structures with precision and predictability, which is unrivaled among the natural and synthetic materials. One of the best example for such high fidelity is represented by the DNA origami programming and folding. On the other hand, recombinant proteins, which we are focusing on, also self-assemble into nanofibrils, supramolecular structures of densely packed cross-beta sheets. Such fibrils, typically 10 nm in diameter and hundreds nanometers long, possess high environmental and chemical stability as well as mechanical rigidity. Such systems are represent attractive scaffolds for creation of ordered nanomaterials.

To take advantage of both, protein and DNA materials, we chemically combine recombinant spider silk and nucleic acids in hybrid entities. We investigate fundamental properties of the protein hybrids to realize their utilization in materials research. We study new chemical modifications and conjugations of the building blocks, arrangements protein moieties upon hybridizations of DNA, corresponding morphology and structure of conjugate fibrils. Further, we use specific DNA hybridization to trigger self-organization of the fibrils into hierarchical structures.

Fig. 1: Self-organization of DNA-protein hybrid materials in bottom up manner in solutions: Spider silk moieties in the hybrids, prepared by a chemical conjugation with DNA, were spatially arranged into branched structures using designed DNA hybridization and self-assembled into ribbons, which further self-organized into micro-rafts due to DNA interaction at specific temperature gradients.


Fig. 2: Pattering of the hybrid materials using DNA-directed hybridization technology: Surfaces modified by capture DNA were specifically linked to complementary DNA-spider silk conjugates on defined position using micro-contact printing technology. Immobilized conjugates served as nucleation sides for silk fibrils growth from the surface.


Scheibel, T., Humenik, M., Andrew Smith

Spider Silk: Understanding the Structure–Function Relationship of a Natural Fiber

Humenik, M., Scheibel, T., Andrew Smith

Recombinant spider silks – biopolymers with potential for future applications

Polymers 3, 640–661 doi:10.3390/polym3010640

Humenik, M., Scheibel, T.,

Self-assembly of nucleic acids, silk and hybrid materials thereof

J. Phys. Condens. Matter 26, 503102 doi: 10.1088/0953-8984/26/50/503102

Humenik, M., Scheibel, T.,

Nanomaterial building blocks based on spider silk–oligonucleotide conjugates

ACS Nano 8, 1342-1349 doi: 10.1021/nn404916f

Scheibel, T., Humenik, M., Magdeburg M

Influence of repeat numbers on self-assembly rates of repetitive recombinant spider silk proteins

J. Struct. Biol., 186, 431-437 doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2014.03.010

Humenik, M., Scheibel, T., Markus Drechsler

Controlled hierarchical assembly ofspider silk-DNA chimeras into ribbons and raft-like morphologies

Nano Lett.., 14, 3999−4004 doi: 10.1021/nl501412k

Humenik, M., Scheibel, T., Andrew M. Smith, Sina Arndt

Data for ion and seed dependent fibril assembly of a spidroin core domain

Data in Brief 4: 571–576 doi: 10.1016/j.dib.2015.07.023

Humenik, M., Scheibel, T., Gregor Lang

Silk nanofibril self-assembly versus electrospinning

WIREs Nanomed. Nanobiotechnol. 2018, e 1509 doi: 10.1002/wnan.1509

Scheibel, T., Humenik, M., Hardy, J., Bertin, A., Torres-Rendon, J., Leal-Egana, A., Bauer, F., Walther, A., Cölfen, H., Schlaad, H.

Facile Photochemical Modification of Silk Protein-Based Biomaterials

Bacromol.Biosci., 2018, 18, 11 doi: 10.1021/mabi.201800216

Humenik, M., Scheibel, T., Molina, A.

Nanoscale patterning of surfacesvia DNA directed spider silk assembly

Biomacromolecules, 2019, in print doi: 10.1021/acs.biomac.8b01333

Humenik, M., Scheibel, T., Mohrand, M.

Self-assembly of spider silk-fusion proteins comprising enzymatic and fluorescence activity.

Bioconjugate Chemistry doi: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.1027b00759.

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