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J Phys Chem B. 2013 May 2;117(17):5090-101. doi: 10.1021/jp401817h. Epub 2013 Apr 16.

Specificity in cationic interaction with poly(N-isopropylacrylamide).

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Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701, United States.


Classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were conducted for PNIPAM in 1 M monovalent alkali chloride salt solutions as well as in 0.5 M divalent Mg(2+) and Ca(2+) chloride salt solutions. It was found that the strength for the direct alkali ion-amide O binding is strongly correlated with the size of the ionic radius. The smallest Li(+) ion binds strongest to amide O, and the largest Cs(+) ion has the weakest interaction with the amide bond. For the divalent Mg(2+) and Ca(2+) ions, their interactions with the amide bond are weak and appear to be mediated by the water molecules, particularly in the case of Mg(2+), resulting from their strong hydration. The direct binding between the cations and amide O requires partial desovlation of the ions that is energetically unfavorable for Mg(2+) and also to a great extent for Ca(2+). The higher cation charge makes the electrostatic interaction more favorable but the dehydration process less favorable. This competition between electrostatic interaction and the dehydration process largely dictates whether the direct binding between the cation and amide O is energetically preferred or not. For monovalent alkali ions, it is energetically preferred to bind directly with the amide O. Moreover, Li(+) ion is also found to associate strongly with the hydrophobic residues on PNIPAM.

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