Open-air synthesis of oligo(ethylene glycol)-functionalized polypeptides from non-purified N-carboxyanhydrides†
With PEG-like properties, such as hydrophilicity and stealth effect against protein absorption, oligo(ethylene glycol) (OEG)-functionalized polypeptides have emerged as a new class of biomaterials alternative to PEG with polypeptide-like properties. Synthesis of this class of materials, however, has been demonstrated very challenging, as the synthesis and purification of OEG-functionalized N-carboxyanhydrides (OEG-NCAs) in high purity, which is critical for the success in polymerization, is tedious and often results in low yield. OEG-functionalized polypeptides are therefore only accessible to a few limited labs with expertise in this specialized NCA chemistry and materials. Here, we report the controlled synthesis of OEG-functionalized polypeptides in high yield directly from the OEG-functionalized amino acids via easy and reproducible polymerization of non-purified OEG-NCAs. The prepared amphiphilic block copolypeptides can self-assemble into narrowly dispersed nanoparticles in water, which show properties suitable for drug delivery applications.