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Eur Phys J E Soft Matter. 2002 Aug;8(5):539-47.

Networks of helix-forming polymers.

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Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK.


Biological molecules can form hydrogen bonds between nearby residues, leading to helical secondary structures. The associated reduction of configurational entropy leads to a temperature dependence of this effect: the helix-coil transition. Since the formation of helices implies a dramatic shortening of the polymer dimensions, an externally imposed end-to-end distance R affects the equilibrium helical fraction of the polymer and the resulting force-extension curves show anomalous plateau regimes. In this article, we investigate the behaviour of a crosslinked network of such helicogenic molecules, particularly focusing on the coupling of the (average) helical content present in a network to the externally imposed strain. We show that both elongation and compression can lead to an increase in helical domains under appropriate conditions.

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