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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Atomic-level engineering and imaging of polypeptoid crystal lattices.

  • Author(s): Xuan, Sunting
  • Jiang, Xi
  • Spencer, Ryan K
  • Li, Nan K
  • Prendergast, David
  • Balsara, Nitash P
  • Zuckermann, Ronald N
  • et al.

Rational design of supramolecular nanomaterials fundamentally depends upon an atomic-level understanding of their structure and how it responds to chemical modifications. Here we studied a series of crystalline diblock copolypeptoids by a combination of sequence-controlled synthesis, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, and molecular dynamics simulation. This family of amphiphilic polypeptoids formed free-floating 2-dimensional monolayer nanosheets, in which individual polymer chains and their relative orientations could be directly observed. Furthermore, bromine atom side-chain substituents in nanosheets were directly visualized by cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, revealing atomic details in position space inaccessible by conventional scattering techniques. While the polypeptoid backbone conformation was conserved across the set of molecules, the nanosheets exhibited different lattice packing geometries dependent on the aromatic side chain para substitutions. Peptoids are inherently achiral, yet we showed that sequences containing an asymmetric aromatic substitution pattern pack with alternating rows adopting opposite backbone chiralities. These atomic-level insights into peptoid nanosheet crystal structure provide guidance for the future design of bioinspired nanomaterials with more precisely controlled structures and properties.

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