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Molecular Design of Chemically Fueled Peptide–Polyelectrolyte Coacervate-Based Assemblies

F. Späth 2021 JACS


F. Späth, C. Donau, A.M. Bergmann, M. Kränzlein, C.V. Synatschke, B. Rieger and J. Boekhoven

Journal of the American Chemical Society


Complex coacervated-based assemblies form when 2021_spaethtwo oppositely charged polyelectrolytes combine to phase separate into a supramolecular architecture. These architectures range from complex coacervate droplets, spherical and worm-like micelles, to vesicles. These assemblies are widely applied, for example, in the food industry, and as underwater or medical adhesives, but they can also serve as a great model for biological assemblies. Indeed, biology relies on complex coacervation to form so-called membraneless organelles, dynamic and transient droplets formed by the coacervation of nucleic acids and proteins. To regulate their function, membraneless organelles are dynamically maintained by chemical reaction cycles, including phosphorylation and dephosphorylation, but exact mechanisms remain elusive. Recently, some model systems also regulated by chemical reaction cycles have been introduced, but how to design such systems and how molecular design affects their properties is unclear. In this work, we test a series of cationic peptides for their chemically fueled coacervation, and we test how their design can affect the dynamics of assembly and disassembly of the emerging structures. We combine them with both homo- and block copolymers and study the morphologies of the assemblies, including morphological transitions that are driven by the chemical reaction cycle. We deduce heuristic design rules that can be applied to other chemically regulated systems. These rules will help develop membraneless organelle model systems and lead to exciting new applications of complex coacervate-based examples like temporary adhesives.

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