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Differential self-assembly and tunable emission of aromatic peptide bola-amphiphiles containing perylene bisimide in polar solvents including water

Bai, Shuo and Debnath, Sisir and Javid, Nadeem and Frederix, Pim W J M and Fleming, Scott and Pappas, Charalampos and Ulijn, Rein V (2014) Differential self-assembly and tunable emission of aromatic peptide bola-amphiphiles containing perylene bisimide in polar solvents including water. Langmuir, 30 (25). 7576–7584. ISSN 0743-7463

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We demonstrate the self-assembly of bola-amphiphile-type conjugates of dipeptides and perylene bisimide (PBI) in water and other polar solvents. Depending on the nature of the peptide used (glycine-tyrosine, GY, or glycine-aspartic acid, GD), the balance between H-bonding and aromatic stacking can be tailored. In aqueous buffer, PBI-[GY]2 forms chiral nanofibers, resulting in the formation of a hydrogel, while for PBI-[GD]2 achiral spherical aggregates are formed, demonstrating that the peptide sequence has a profound effect on the structure formed. In water and a range of other polar solvents, self-assembly of these two PBI-peptides conjugates results in different nanostructures with highly tunable fluorescence performance depending on the peptide sequence employed, e.g., fluorescent emission and quantum yield. Organogels are formed for the PBI-[GD]2 derivative in DMF and DMSO while PBI-[GY]2 gels in DMF. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first successful strategy for using short peptides, specifically, their sequence/structure relationships, to manipulate the PBI nanostructure and consequent optical properties. The combination of controlled self-assembly, varied optical properties, and formation of aqueous and organic gel-phase materials may facilitate the design of devices for various applications related to light harvesting and sensing.