Origin of Proteolytic Stability of Peptide-Brush Polymers as Globular Proteomimetics

Hao Sun, Baofu Qiao, Wonmin Choi, Nicholas Hampu, Naneki C. McCallum, Matthew P. Thompson, Julia Oktawiec, Steven Weigand, Omar M. Ebrahim, Monica Olvera De La Cruz, Nathan C. Gianneschi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Peptide-brush polymers (PBPs), wherein every side-chain of the polymers is peptidic, represent a new class of proteomimetic with unusually high proteolytic resistance while maintaining bioactivity. Here, we sought to determine the origin of this behavior and to assess its generality via a combined theory and experimental approach. A series of PBPs with various polymer backbone structures were prepared and examined for their proteolytic stability and bioactivity. We discovered that an increase in the hydrophobicity of the polymer backbones is predictive of an elevation in proteolytic stability of the side-chain peptides. Computer simulations, together with small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) analysis, revealed globular morphologies for these polymers, in which pendant peptides condense around hydrophobic synthetic polymer backbones driven by the hydrophobic effect. As the hydrophobicity of the polymer backbones increases, the extent of solvent exposure of peptide cleavage sites decreases, reducing their accessibility to proteolytic enzymes. This study provides insight into the important factors driving PBP aqueous-phase structures to behave as globular, synthetic polymer-based proteomimetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Central Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 22 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


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