Covalent Capture of Aligned Self-Assembling Nanofibers
Hartgerink, Jeffrey D.
A great deal of effort has been invested in the design and characterization of systems which spontaneously assemble into nanofibers. These systems are interesting for their fundamental supramolecular chemistry and have also been shown to be promising materials, particularly for biomedical applications. Multidomain peptides are one such assembler, and in previous work we have demonstrated the reversibility of their assembly under mild and easily controlled conditions, along with their utility for time-controlled drug delivery, protein delivery, cell encapsulation, and cell delivery applications. Additionally, their highly compliant criteria for sequence selection allows them to be modified to incorporate protease susceptibility and biological-recognition motifs for cell adhesion and angiogenesis. However, control of their assembly has been limited to the formation of disorganized nanofibers. In this work, we expand our ability to manipulate multidomain-peptide assembly into parallel-aligned fiber bundles. Albeit this alignment is achieved by the shearing forces of syringe delivery, it is also dependent on the amino acid sequence of the multidomain peptide. The incorporation of the amino acid DOPA (3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine) allows the self-assembled nanofibers to form an anisotropic hydrogel string under modest shear stress. The hydrogel string shows remarkable birefringence, and highly aligned nanofibers are visible in scanning electronic microscopy. Furthermore, the covalent linkage induced by DOPA oxidation allows covalent capture of the aligned nanofiber bundles, enhancing their birefringence and structural integrity.