Emergence of highly-ordered hierarchical nanoscale aggregates on electrostatic binding of self-assembled multivalent (SAMul) cationic micelles with polyanionic heparin†
We report three surfactants, with cationic N,N-di-(3-aminopropyl)-N-methylamine (DAPMA) head groups and aliphatic chains connected via an amide linkage, and investigate their ability to self-assemble and bind polyanionic heparin – a process of potential clinical importance in coagulation control. Modifying the hydrophobic chain length tunes the self-assembly event, with C16-DAPMA having the lowest critical micelle concentration and also being the optimal heparin binder. Remarkably highly structured hierarchical nanoscale aggregates are formed on binding between the spherical cationic micelles and linear polyanionic heparin. C14-DAPMA and C16-DAPMA yield organized polycrystalline assemblies as observed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), predicted in solution by mesoscale simulations and characterized by small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). This confirms that the micelles remain intact during the hierarchical assembly process and become packed in a face-centered cubic manner. The nanoscale assembly formed by C16-DAPMA showed the highest degree of order. Importantly, these studies indicate the impact of hydrophobic modification on self-assembly and heparin binding, demonstrate remarkably high stability of these self-assembled micelles even when forming strong electrostatic interactions with heparin, and provide structural insights into nanoscale hierarchical electrostatic assemblies.