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Insights into the coassembly of hydrogelators and surfactants based on aromatic peptide amphiphiles

Fleming, Scott and Debnath, Sisir and Frederix, Pim and Hunt, Neil and Ulijn, Rein (2014) Insights into the coassembly of hydrogelators and surfactants based on aromatic peptide amphiphiles. Biomacromolecules, 15 (4). pp. 1171-1184. ISSN 1526-4602

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The coassembly of small molecules is a useful means of increasing the complexity and functionality of their resultant supramolecular constructs in a modular fashion. In this study, we explore the assembly and coassembly of serine surfactants and tyrosine-leucine hydrogelators, capped at the N-termini with either fluorenyl-9-methoxycarbonyl (Fmoc) or pyrene. These systems all exhibit self-assembly behavior, which is influenced by aromatic stacking interactions, while the hydrogelators also exhibit β-sheet-type arrangements, which reinforce their supramolecular structures. We provide evidence for three distinct supramolecular coassembly models; cooperative, disruptive, and orthogonal. The coassembly mode adopted depends on whether the individual constituents (I) are sufficiently different, such that effective segregation and orthogonal assembly occurs; (II) adhere to a communal mode of self-assembly; or (III) act to compromise the assembly of one another via incorporation and disruption. We find that a greater scope for controllable coassembly exists within orthogonal systems; which show minimal relative changes in the native gelator's supramolecular structure by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), circular dichroism (CD), and fluorescence spectroscopy. This is indicative of the segregation of orthogonal coassembly constituents into distinct domains, where surfactant chemical functionality is presented at the surface of the gelator's supramolecular fibers. Overall, this work provides new insights into the design of modular coassembly systems, which have the potential to augment the chemical and physical properties of existing gelator systems.