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Biomacromolecules. 2005 May-Jun;6(3):1739-49.

Reversible hydrogels from self-assembling genetically engineered protein block copolymers.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry and of Bioengineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA.


A series of triblock protein copolymers composed of a central water-soluble polyelectrolyte segment flanked by two coiled-coil domains was synthesized by genetic engineering methods. The copolymers self-assembled into reversible hydrogels in response to changes in temperature, pH, and the presence or absence of denaturating agent (guanidine hydrochloride, GdnHCl). Hydrogel formation was concentration-dependent, and the concentration needed for hydrogel formation correlated with the oligomerization state of the coiled-coil domains in the protein copolymers. The morphology of the hydrogels, as determined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), indicated the presence of porous interconnected networks. The thermal stabilities and self-assembling properties of the protein copolymers were successfully controlled by manipulating the amino acid sequences of the coiled-coil domains. The stimuli responsiveness and reversibility of the hydrogel self-assembly suggest that these protein copolymers may have potential in biomedical applications.

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