Peptide nanofibers with dynamic instability through non-equilibrium biocatalytic assembly

Sisir Debnath, Sangita Roy, Rein Ulijn

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We demonstrate supramolecular peptide nanofibers that display dynamic instability, i.e. they are formed by competing assembly and dis-assembly reactions, where assembly is favoured away from equilibrium. The systems are based on competitive catalytic transacylation and hydrolysis, producing a self-assembling aromatic peptide derivative from
amino acid precursors, that temporarily exceeds the critical gelation concentration, until the
competing hydrolytic reaction takes over. Analysis by atomic force microscopy shows
consecutive nanofiber formation and shortening. The process results in macroscopically
observable temporary hydrogelation, which may be repeated upon refuelling the system
with further addition of the chemically activated amino acid pre-cursor. Non-equilibrium
nanostructures open up opportunities for mimicry of the behaviour dynamic gels found in
natural systems and provide components for future adaptive nanotechnologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16789-16792
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number45
Early online date22 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2013


  • peptide nanofibres
  • biocatalytic self-assembly
  • non-equilibrium

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