Self-replication has been demonstrated in synthetic chemical systems based on oligonucleotides, peptides and complementary molecules without natural analogues. However, within a living cell virtually no molecule catalyses its own formation, and the search for chemical systems in which both auto- and cross-catalysis can occur has therefore attracted wide interest. One such system, consisting of two self-replicating peptides that catalyse each other's production, has been reported. Here we describe a four- component peptide system that is capable of auto- and cross-catalysis and allows for the selective amplification of one or more of the products by changing the reaction conditions. The ability of this system selectively to amplify one or more molecules in response to changes in environmental conditions such as pH or salt concentration supports the suggestion that self-replicating peptides may have played a role in the origin of life.
Nanocrystalline semi-conductor materials, called quantum dots (QDs), exhibit unique optical and spectroscopic properties, which include broad absorption, narrow and tunable emission, resistance to photobleaching, strong luminescence, and long luminescent lifetimes. These remarkable properties of QDs have resulted in their use as an alternative to both small-molecule and protein fluorophores in innumerable biological applications. The overlap of QDs with the rich chemistry and biology that is characteristic of the peptide arena is an emerging research area. Peptides engineered with appropriate cysteines or histidines have served as ligands for producing water soluble QDs as well as for tagging protein ligands and biosensors to QD surfaces. Incorporation of cell-penetrating peptides on QD surfaces has allowed for the translocation of functionalized QDs into cells for intracellular imaging applications. QDs containing fluorescently labeled peptide substrates have shown utility in the development of novel protease assays. Moreover, QD labeled peptides that serve as ligands for cellular receptors provide an alternative to antibody mediated imaging at the whole-cell and single molecule level to study receptor distribution and trafficking. This review highlights the overlap between QD and peptide chemistry and speculates on future research directions. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.