The influence of a non-ionic polymeric surfactant on the self-assembly of a peptide amphiphile (PA) that forms nanotapes is investigated using a combination of microscopic, scattering and spectroscopic techniques. Mixtures of Pluronic copolymer P123 with the PA C16-KTTKS in aqueous solution were studied at a fixed concentration of the PA at which it is known to self-assemble into extended nanotapes, but varying P123 concentration. We find that P123 can disrupt the formation of C16-KTTKS nanotapes, leading instead to cylindrical nanofibril structures. The spherical micelles formed by P123 at room temperature are disrupted in the presence of the PA. There is a loss of cloudiness in the solutions as the large nanotape aggregates formed by C16-KTTKS are broken up, by P123 solubilization. At least locally, β-sheet structure is retained, as confirmed by XRD and FTIR spectroscopy, even for solutions containing 20 wt% P123. This indicates, unexpectedly, that peptide secondary structure can be retained in solutions with high concentration of non-ionic surfactant. Self-assembly in this system exhibits slow kinetics towards equilibrium, the initial self-assembly being dependent on the order of mixing. Heating above the lipid chain melting temperature assists in disrupting trapped non-equilibrium states.
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