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Nat Mater. 2004 Apr;3(4):244-8. Epub 2004 Mar 14.

Stimuli-responsive polypeptide vesicles by conformation-specific assembly.

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  • 1Department of Materials, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.


In biology, lipids are well known for their ability to assemble into spherical vesicles. Proteins, in particular virus capsids, can also form regular vesicle-like structures, where the precise folding and stable conformations of many identical subunits directs their self-assembly. Functionality present on these subunits also controls their disassembly within the cellular environment, for example, in response to a pH change. Here, we report the preparation of diblock copolypeptides that self-assemble into spherical vesicular assemblies whose size and structure are dictated primarily by the ordered conformations of the polymer segments, in a manner similar to viral capsid assembly. Furthermore, functionality was incorporated into these molecules to render them susceptible to environmental stimuli, which is desirable for drug-delivery applications. The control of assembly and function exhibited in these systems is a significant advance towards the synthesis of materials that can mimic the precise three-dimensional assembly found in proteins.

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