Designing stable, hierarchical peptide fibers from block co-polypeptide sequences
Natural materials, such as collagen, can assemble with multiple levels of organization in solution. Achieving a similar degree of control over morphology, stability and hierarchical organization with equilibrium synthetic materials remains elusive. For the assembly of peptidic materials the process is controlled by a complex interplay between hydrophobic interactions, electrostatics and secondary structure formation. Consequently, fine tuning the thermodynamics and kinetics of assembly remains extremely challenging. Here, we synthesized a set of block co polypeptides with varying hydrophobicity and ability to form secondary structure. From this set we select a sequence with balanced interactions that results in the formation of high-aspect ratio thermodynamically favored nanotubes, stable between pH 2 and 12 and up to 80 °C. This stability permits their hierarchical assembly into bundled nanotube fibers by directing the pH and inducing complementary zwitterionic charge behavior. This block co-polypeptide design strategy, using defined sequences, provides a straightforward approach to creating complex hierarchical peptide-based assemblies with tunable interactions.