Design of the elusive proteinaceous oxygen donor copper site suggests a promising future for copper for MRI contrast agents

Anokhi Shah, Michael J. Taylor, Giulia Molinaro, Sellamuthu Anbu, Margaux Verdu, Lucy Jennings, Iuliia Mikulska, Sofía Díaz-Moreno, Hassane EL Mkami , Graham M. Smith, Melanie M. Britton, Janet E. Lovett (Lead Author), Anna F. A. Peacock (Lead Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report the preparation and spectroscopic characterization of a highly elusive copper site bound exclusively to oxygen donor atoms within a protein scaffold. Despite copper generally being considered unsuitable for use in MRI contrast agents, which in the clinic are largely Gd(III) based, the designed copper coiled coil displays relaxivity values equal to, or superior than, those of the Gd(III) analog at clinical field strengths. The creation of this new-to-biology proteinaceous CuOx-binding site demonstrates the power of the de novo peptide design approach to access chemistry for abiological applications, such as for the development of MRI contrast agents.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2219036120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2023


  • MRI
  • bioinorganic chemistry
  • coiled coil
  • contrast agents
  • protein design

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