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Peptide nanofibers with dynamic instability through non-equilibrium biocatalytic assembly

Debnath, Sisir and Roy, Sangita and Ulijn, Rein (2013) Peptide nanofibers with dynamic instability through non-equilibrium biocatalytic assembly. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 135 (45). pp. 16789-16792. ISSN 0002-7863

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We demonstrate supramolecular peptide nanofibers that display dynamic instability, i.e. they are formed by competing assembly and dis-assembly reactions, where assembly is favoured away from equilibrium. The systems are based on competitive catalytic transacylation and hydrolysis, producing a self-assembling aromatic peptide derivative from amino acid precursors, that temporarily exceeds the critical gelation concentration, until the competing hydrolytic reaction takes over. Analysis by atomic force microscopy shows consecutive nanofiber formation and shortening. The process results in macroscopically observable temporary hydrogelation, which may be repeated upon refuelling the system with further addition of the chemically activated amino acid pre-cursor. Non-equilibrium nanostructures open up opportunities for mimicry of the behaviour dynamic gels found in natural systems and provide components for future adaptive nanotechnologies.