Fully amorphous atactic and isotactic block copolymers and their self-assembly into nano- and microscopic vesicles†
The introduction of chirality into aqueous self-assemblies by employing isotactic block copolymers (BCPs) is an emerging field of interest as it promises special membrane properties of polymersomes not accessible by atactic BCPs. However, isotactic BCPs typically exhibit crystalline behaviour, inducing high membrane stiffness and limiting their applicability in systems involving membrane proteins or sensitive cargo. In this study, an isotactic yet fully amorphous BCP is introduced which overcomes these limitations. Three BCPs composed of poly(butylene oxide)-block-poly(glycidol) (PBO-b-PG), differing solely in their tacticities (R/S, R and S), were synthesised and characterised regarding their structural, optical and thermal properties. Their self-assembly into homogenous phases of nanoscopic polymersomes (referred to as small unilamellar vesicles, SUVs) was analysed, revealing stability differences between SUVs composed of the different BCPs. Additionally, microscopic giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) were prepared by double emulsion microfluidics. Only the atactic BCP formed GUVs which were stable over several hours, whereas GUVs composed of isotactic BCPs ruptured within several minutes after formation. The ability of atactic PBO-b-PG to form microreactors was elucidated by reconstituting the membrane protein OmpF in the GUV membrane by microfluidics and performing an enzyme reaction inside its lumen. The system presented here serves as platform to design versatile vesicles with flexible membranes composed of atactic or isotactic BCPs. Hence, they allow for the introduction of chirality into nano- or microreactors which is a yet unstudied field and could enable special biotechonological applications.