Synthetic polypeptides derived from the ring-opening polymerization of N-carboxyanhydrides can spontaneously fold into stable secondary structures under specific environmental conditions. These secondary structures and their dynamic transitions play an important role in regulating the properties of polypeptides in self-assembly, catalysis, polymerization, and biomedical applications. Here, we review the current strategies to modulate the secondary structures, and highlight the conformation-specific dynamic properties of synthetic polypeptides and the corresponding materials. A number of mechanistic studies elucidating the role of secondary structures are discussed, aiming to provide insights into the new designs and applications of synthetic polypeptides. We aim for this article to bring to people's attention synthetic polymers with ordered conformations, which may exhibit association behaviors and material properties that are otherwise not found in polymers without stable secondary structures.
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