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Creators/Authors contains: "Xia, Yingchun"

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  1. null (Ed.)
  2. Abstract

    The recent advances in accelerated polymerization ofN-carboxyanhydrides (NCAs) enriched the toolbox to prepare well-defined polypeptide materials. Herein we report the use of crown ether (CE) to catalyze the polymerization of NCA initiated by conventional primary amine initiators in solvents with low polarity and low hydrogen-bonding ability. The cyclic structure of the CE played a crucial role in the catalysis, with 18-crown-6 enabling the fastest polymerization kinetics. The fast polymerization kinetics outpaced common side reactions, enabling the preparation of well-defined polypeptides using an α-helical macroinitiator. Experimental results as well as the simulation methods suggested that CE changed the binding geometry between NCA and propagating amino chain-end, which promoted the molecular interactions and lowered the activation energy for ring-opening reactions of NCAs. This work not only provides an efficient strategy to prepare well-defined polypeptides with functionalized C-termini, but also guides the design of catalysts for NCA polymerization.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Enzymes provide optimal three-dimensional structures for substrate binding and the subsequent accelerated reaction. Such folding-dependent catalytic behaviors, however, are seldom mechanistically explored with reduced structural complexity. Here, we demonstrate that the α-helix, a much simpler structural motif of enzyme, can facilitate its own growth through the self-catalyzed polymerization ofN-carboxyanhydride (NCA) in dichloromethane. The reversible binding between the N terminus of α-helical polypeptides and NCAs promotes rate acceleration of the subsequent ring-opening reaction. A two-stage, Michaelis–Menten-type kinetic model is proposed by considering the binding and reaction between the propagating helical chains and the monomers, and is successfully utilized to predict the molecular weights and molecular-weight distributions of the resulting polymers. This work elucidates the mechanism of helix-induced, enzyme-mimetic catalysis, emphasizes the importance of solvent choice in the discovery of new reaction type, and provides a route for rapid production of well-defined synthetic polypeptides by taking advantage of self-accelerated ring-opening polymerizations.

     
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  4. Ribozymes synthesize proteins in a highly regulated local environment to minimize side reactions caused by various competing species. In contrast, it is challenging to prepare synthetic polypeptides from the polymerization of N -carboxyanhydrides (NCAs) in the presence of water and impurities, which induce monomer degradations and chain terminations, respectively. Inspired by natural protein synthesis, we herein report the preparation of well-defined polypeptides in the presence of competing species, by using a water/dichloromethane biphasic system with macroinitiators anchored at the interface. The impurities are extracted into the aqueous phase in situ, and the localized macroinitiators allow for NCA polymerization at a rate which outpaces water-induced side reactions. Our polymerization strategy streamlines the process from amino acids toward high molecular weight polypeptides with low dispersity by circumventing the tedious NCA purification and the demands for air-free conditions, enabling low-cost, large-scale production of polypeptides that has potential to change the paradigm of polypeptide-based biomaterials. 
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