Synthesis of Novel Polypeptide-Silica Hybrid Materials through Surface-Initiated N-carboxyanhydride Polymerization



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There is an increasing demand for materials that are physically robust, easily recovered, and able to perform a wide variety of chemical functions. By combining hard and soft matter synergistically, organic-inorganic hybrid materials are potentially useful for a number of applications (e.g. catalysis, separations, sensing). In this respect, organic/ordered mesoporous silica (OMS) hybrids have attracted considerable attention, with an increasing emphasis on complex organic moieties achieved through multi-step reactions and polymerizations. It is on this front that we have focused our work, specifically in regard to polypeptides. Polypeptides are well suited organic components for hybrids as they provide a wide range of possible side chain chemistries (NH2, -SH, -COOH, -OH, etc.), chirality, and have conformations that are known to be responsive to external stimuli (pH, electrolytes, solvents, etc.). Our work has shown that N-carboxyanhydride chemistry offers a facile single step approach to the incorporation of dense polypeptide brushes in OMS. Modifying the initiator loading, pore size, pore topology, and monomer identity significantly impacted the properties of the obtained composites and peptide brush layers. Extending this work, a synthesis paradigm for preferentially grafting poly-L-lysine to the external and internal surfaces of SBA-15, a widely used OMS material, was developed. We observed that the pores of these hybrids could be opened and closed by the reversible swelling of the polypeptide layer. Similarly, novel bifunctional hybrids were synthesized by grafting polypeptides to the external surface of monodisperse OMS spheres that contain a thiol-functionalized core. The accessibility of the internal thiols to a fluorescent dye shows the potential of these hybrids for applications such as controlled uptake/release.