Physical hydrogels are extensively used in a wide range of biomedical applications. However, different applications require hydrogels with different mechanical and structural properties. Tailoring these properties demands exquisite control over the supramolecular peptides with different affinities for dimerization. Four different mechanical properties of hydrogels using de novo designed coiled coil interactions involved. Here we show that it is possible to control the nonorthogonal peptides, designed to fold into four different coiled coil heterodimers with dissociation constants spanning from mu M to pM, were conjugated to star-shaped 4-arm poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG). The different PEG-coiled coil conjugates self-assemble as a result of peptide heterodimerization. Different combinations of PEG peptide conjugates assemble into PEG peptide networks and hydrogels with distinctly different thermal stabilities, supramolecular, and rheological properties, reflecting the peptide dimer affinities. We also demonstrate that it is possible to rationally modulate the self-assembly process by means of thermodynamic self-sorting by sequential additions of nonpegylated peptides. The specific interactions involved in peptide dimerization thus provides means for programmable and reversible self-assembly of hydrogels with precise control over rheological properties, which can significantly facilitate optimization of their overall performance and adaption to different processing requirements and applications.
Funding Agencies|Swedish Research Council [621-2011-4319]; Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research [ICA10-0002]; Linkoping University; Swedish Government Strategic Research Area in Materials Science on Functional Materials at Linkoping University (Faculty Grant SFO-Mat-LiU) [2009 00971]