Minimal peptoid dynamics inform self-assembly propensity

Swanson, Hamish W. A. and Lau, King Hang Aaron and Tuttle, Tell (2023) Minimal peptoid dynamics inform self-assembly propensity. Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 127 (49). 10601–10614. ISSN 1520-6106 (

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Peptoids are structural isomers of natural peptides, with side chain attachment at the amide nitrogen, conferring this class of compounds with the ability to access both cis and trans ω torsions as well as an increased diversity of ψ/φ states with respect to peptides. Sampling within these dimensions is controlled through side chain selection, and an expansive set of viable peptoid residues exists. It has been shown recently that “minimal” di- and tripeptoids with aromatic side chains can self-assemble into highly ordered structures, with size and morphological definition varying as a function of sequence pattern (e.g., XFF and FXF, where X = a nonaromatic peptoid monomer). Aromatic groups, such as phenylalanine, are regularly used in the design of minimal peptide assemblers. In recognition of this, and to draw parallels between these compounds classes, we have developed a series of descriptors for intramolecular dynamics of aromatic side chains to discern whether these dynamics, in a preassembly condition, can be related to experimentally observed nanoscale assemblies. To do this, we have built on the atomistic peptoid force field reported by Weiser and Santiso (CGenFF-WS) through the rigorous fitting of partial charges and the collation of Charmm General Force Field (CGenFF) parameters relevant to these systems. Our study finds that the intramolecular dynamics of side chains, for a given sequence, is dependent on the specific combination of backbone ω torsions and that homogeneity of sampling across these states correlates well with the experimentally observed ability to assemble into nanomorphologies with long-range order. Sequence patterning is also shown to affect sampling, in a manner consistent for both tripeptoids and tripeptides. Additionally, sampling similarities between the nanofiber forming tripeptoid, Nf-Nke-Nf in the cc state, and the nanotube forming dipeptide FF, highlight a structural motif which may be relevant to the emergence of extended linear assemblies. To assess these properties, a variety of computational approaches have been employed.