Enhancing the thermal stability of proteins is an important task for protein engineering. There are several ways to increase the thermal stability of proteins in biology, such as greater hydrophobic interactions, increased helical content, decreased occurrence of thermolabile residues, or stable hydrogen bonds. Here, we describe a well-defined polymer based on beta-helical polyisocyanotripeptides (TriPIC) that uses biological approaches, including hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic interactions for its exceptional thermal stability in aqueous solutions. The multiple hydrogen bonding arrays along the polymer backbone shield the hydrophobic core from water. Variable temperature CD and FTIR studies indicate that, on heating, a better packed polymer conformation further stiffens the backbone. Driven by hydrophobic interactions, TriPIC solutions give fully reversible hydrogels that can withstand high temperatures (80 degrees C) for extended times. Cryo-scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), and thorough rheological analysis show that the hydrogel has a bundled architecture, which gives rise to strain stiffening effects on deformation of the gel, analogous to many biological hydrogels.

Ultrafast Spectroscopy

Yuan, H., Xu, J., van Dam, E., Giubertoni, G., Rezus, Y., Hammink, R., … Kouwer, P. (2017). Strategies To Increase the Thermal Stability of Truly Biomimetic Hydrogels: Combining Hydrophobicity and Directed Hydrogen Bonding. Macromolecules, 50(22), 9058–9065. doi:10.1021/acs.macromol.7b01832