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Open AccessArticle

Cross-Linked Self-Assembling Peptides and Their Post-Assembly Functionalization via One-Pot and In Situ Gelation System

1
Tissue Engineering Unit, Institute for Stem Cell Biology, Regenerative Medicine and Innovative Therapies-ISBReMIT, Fondazione IRCCS Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, 71013 San Giovanni Rotondo (FG), Italy
2
Center for Nanomedicine and Tissue Engineering (CNTE), ASST Grande Ospedale Metropolitano Niguarda, 20162 Milan, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(12), 4261; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21124261
Received: 8 May 2020 / Revised: 11 June 2020 / Accepted: 12 June 2020 / Published: 15 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Polymeric Scaffolds: Design, Processing, and Biomedical Application)
Supramolecular nanostructures formed through peptide self-assembly can have a wide range of applications in the biomedical landscape. However, they often lose biomechanical properties at low mechanical stress due to the non-covalent interactions working in the self-assembling process. Herein, we report the design of cross-linked self-assembling peptide hydrogels using a one-pot in situ gelation system, based on 1-ethyl-3-[3-dimethylaminopropyl] carbodiimide/N-hydroxysulfosuccinimide (EDC/sulfo–NHS) coupling, to tune its biomechanics. EDC/sulfo–NHS coupling led to limited changes in storage modulus (from 0.9 to 2 kPa), but it significantly increased both the strain (from 6% to 60%) and failure stress (from 19 to 35 Pa) of peptide hydrogel without impairing the spontaneous formation of β-sheet-containing nano-filaments. Furthermore, EDC/sulfo–NHS cross-linking bestowed self-healing and thixotropic properties to the peptide hydrogel. Lastly, we demonstrated that this strategy can be used to incorporate bioactive functional motifs after self-assembly on pre-formed nanostructures by functionalizing an Ac-LDLKLDLKLDLK-CONH2 (LDLK12) self-assembling peptide with the phage display-derived KLPGWSG peptide involved in the modulation of neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation. The incorporation of a functional motif did not alter the peptide’s secondary structure and its mechanical properties. The work reported here offers new tools to both fine tune the mechanical properties of and tailor the biomimetic properties of self-assembling peptide hydrogels while retaining their nanostructures, which is useful for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. View Full-Text
Keywords: self-assembling peptides; supramolecular hydrogels; cross-linking; EDC; sulfo–NHS; functional motifs; rheology; mechanical properties self-assembling peptides; supramolecular hydrogels; cross-linking; EDC; sulfo–NHS; functional motifs; rheology; mechanical properties
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Pugliese, R.; Gelain, F. Cross-Linked Self-Assembling Peptides and Their Post-Assembly Functionalization via One-Pot and In Situ Gelation System. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21, 4261.

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