Evolution of mechanics in α-helical peptide conjugated linear- and star-block PEG†
We have designed a peptide conjugated poly-ethylene glycol (PEG) bioconjugate system that allows us to examine the intra- and inter-molecular dynamics of gelation. We measure the kinetics of gelation for end-functionalized linear- and star-architectures, and we correlate the gelation behavior with the molecular structure and self-association. The 23-amino acid peptide sequence is known to form a coiled-coil structure as a function of the solution's electrolyte concentration, and the two topologies of the PEG are peptide end-functionalized to examine formation of supramolecular assemblies. Subsequently, microrheology is used to evaluate the dynamics of self-assembly and the gelation time-scales. This study shows that the dynamics of peptide folding and assembly for linear-PEG conjugated systems yield a percolated network, but the star-PEG conjugated systems yield discrete assemblies and remain viscous. The results suggest that the degree of intra- and inter-molecular folding defines the critical gel behavior of the supramolecular system.