Concentration-Driven Assembly and Sol-Gel Transition of π-Conjugated Oligopeptides

Yuecheng Zhou, Bo Li, Songsong Li, Herdeline Ann M. Ardona, William L. Wilson, John D. Tovar, Charles M. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Advances in supramolecular assembly have enabled the design and synthesis of functional materials with well-defined structures across multiple length scales. Biopolymer-synthetic hybrid materials can assemble into supramolecular structures with a broad range of structural and functional diversity through precisely controlled noncovalent interactions between subunits. Despite recent progress, there is a need to understand the mechanisms underlying the assembly of biohybrid/synthetic molecular building blocks, which ultimately control the emergent properties of hierarchical assemblies. In this work, we study the concentration-driven self-assembly and gelation of π-conjugated synthetic oligopeptides containing different π-conjugated cores (quaterthiophene and perylene diimide) using a combination of particle tracking microrheology, confocal fluorescence microscopy, optical spectroscopy, and electron microscopy. Our results show that π-conjugated oligopeptides self-assemble into β-sheet-rich fiber-like structures at neutral pH, even in the absence of electrostatic screening of charged residues. A critical fiber formation concentration cfiber and a critical gel concentration cgel are determined for fiber-forming π-conjugated oligopeptides, and the linear viscoelastic moduli (storage modulus G′ and loss modulus G″) are determined across a wide range of peptide concentrations. These results suggest that the underlying chemical structure of the synthetic π-conjugated cores greatly influences the self-assembly process, such that oligopeptides appended to π-conjugated cores with greater torsional flexibility tend to form more robust fibers upon increasing peptide concentration compared to oligopeptides with sterically constrained cores. Overall, our work focuses on the molecular assembly of π-conjugated oligopeptides driven by concentration, which is controlled by a combination of enthalpic and entropic interactions between oligopeptide subunits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)986-994
Number of pages9
JournalACS Central Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 27 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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