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Influence of Sulfur‐Containing Diamino Acid Structure on Covalently Crosslinked Copolypeptide Hydrogels


Biologically occurring non-canonical di-α-amino acids were converted into new di-N-carboxyanhydride (di-NCA) monomers in reasonable yields with high purity. Five different di-NCAs were separately copolymerized with tert-butyl-l-glutamate NCA to obtain covalently crosslinked copolypeptides capable of forming hydrogels with varying crosslinker density. Comparison of hydrogel properties with residue structure revealed that different di-α-amino acids were not equivalent in crosslink formation. Notably, l-cystine was found to produce significantly weaker hydrogels compared to l-homocystine, l-cystathionine, and l-lanthionine, suggesting that l-cystine may be a sub-optimal choice of di-α-amino acid for preparation of copolypeptide networks. The di-α-amino acid crosslinkers also provided different chemical stability, where disulfide crosslinks were readily degraded by reduction, and thioether crosslinks were stable against reduction. This difference in response may provide a means to fine tune the reduction sensitivity of polypeptide biomaterial networks.

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