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Thrust 3: Macromolecular Structures

Research in this area is inspired by the remarkable functions of proteins and protein assemblies that include CO2 and H2O separation. Two research projects seek to mimic and understand natural systems using sequence-defined synthetic polymers as protein-mimetics. Expertise in assembly of highly stable protein-mimetics into biomimetic membranes supports the bioconversions program.


Sequence-defined Polymers Based on a New Backbone Architecture

JW Grate

Natural proteins are peptide-based polymers composed of a multiplicity of monomers, with each monomer distinguished from another by having a different side chain and positioned in the polymer according to a specific sequence. We are developing a new class of stable synthetic sequence-defined polymers in which the monomer-monomer bonds are distinct from those of peptides. This new chemistry enables facile incorporation of side-chains onto the monomers, which can be assembled into polymer chains in predetermined order. In addition, we are conducting molecular dynamics simulations of these new types of structures, which illustrate conformational order due to hydrogen bonding and other interactions suggestive of secondary protein structure. It is anticipated that side-chain functionality, self-organizing conformations, and intermolecular self-assembly of these sequence-defined soft polymer materials will lead to biomimetic functionality and application.

High-information-content Polymers and their Assembly into Structural Motifs

C Chen, MD Daily, J De Yoreo

The overall purpose of this research is to develop sequence-defined peptoids and understand their self-assembly into higher-order structural motifs. These polymers will mimic the capability of peptides and proteins to self-assemble into oligomeric complexes as well as extended ordered matrices that carry out functions. This capability will ultimately enable synthesis of functional biomimetic materials and advance the state of the art in three ways. First, it seeks to create a scalable, robust approach to synthesis of functional materials that are based on synthetic high-information-content polymers and exhibit sophisticated functions mimicking those found in nature. Second, it uses powerful methods of investigating self-assembly pioneered by the team to develop a fundamental understanding of assembly in these synthetic systems. Third, it integrates the design of simple and complex polymers, characterized by powerful tools, with theoretical modeling to create a true predictive science of synthesis for high-information-content polymeric materials.

Thrust 3:Biomimetic Plymers, Image 1
High-information-content polymers are the building blocks for the synthesis of a honeycomb-like structure.

MS3 Initiative