ACS biomaterials science & engineering | 2021

Controlling Nucleopeptide Hydrogel Self-Assembly and Formation for Cell-Culture Scaffold Applications.



Hydrogels made from self-assembling peptides have significant advantages in tissue engineering, namely a biocompatible nature and large molecular repertoire. Short peptides in particular allow for straightforward synthesis, self-assembly, and reproducibility. Applications are currently limited, however, due to potential toxicity of the chemical modifications that drive self-assembly and harsh gelation conditions. Peptides conjugated to nucleobases present one opportunity for a naturally derived species to minimize cytotoxicity. We have developed a hydrogel-formation environment for nucleopeptide gelation modulated entirely by biological buffers and salts. Self-assembly in this system is dependent on buffer and ion identity mediated by pKa and formulation in the former and by valency and ionicity in the latter. Solutions at physiological pH and osmolarity, and in turn compatible with cell culture, initiate hydrogel formation and analytical and computational methods are used to explore pH and salt effects at the molecular and structural level. The mechanism of nucleopeptide self-assembly enables tuning of mechanical properties through the addition of divalent cations and one order of magnitude increase in hydrogel storage modulus. The stability of these constructs therefore provides an opportunity for long-term cell culture, and we demonstrate survival and proliferation of fibroblasts on hydrogel surfaces. This novel, biological buffer-mediated gelation methodology expands opportunities for tissue engineering applications of short peptides and their derivatives.

Volume None
Pages None
DOI 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.0c01658
Language English
Journal ACS biomaterials science & engineering

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