Syntax of Phase Transition Peptide Polymers with LCST and UCST Behavior
"Smart" polymers that sense stimuli in aqueous environments and that respond with a pronounced change in their solvation are of great utility in biotechnology and medicine. Currently, however, only few peptide polymers are known to display this behavior. Here, we uncover the syntax -- defined as the arrangement of amino acids (letters) into repeat units (words) that have a functional behavior of interest -- of a novel and extensive family of genetically encoded "smart" peptide polymers, termed syntactomers, that dictates their ability to undergo a soluble to insoluble phase transition at temperatures above a lower critical solution temperature (LCST) or below an upper critical solution temperature (UCST). We show that this syntax ranges from phase transition polymers composed of simple repeats of a few amino acids to polymers whose syntax resembles the complex sequence of peptide drugs and protein domains that exhibit dual levels of function, as seen by their stimulus responsiveness and biological activity. This seamless fusion of materials and protein design embodied by syntactomers promises, we hope, a new generation of designer polymers with multiple levels of embedded functionality that should lead to new functional materials of broad interest
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