Cucurbit-Like Polymersomes with Aggregation-Induced Emission Properties Show Enzyme-Mediated Motility

Shoupeng Cao, Hanglong Wu, Imke A. B Pijpers, Jingxin Shao *, Loai K. E. A Abdelmohsen*, David S Williams*, Jan C. M. van Hest*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Polymersomes that incorporate aggregation-induced emission (AIE) moieties are attractive inherently fluorescent nanoparticles with biomedical application potential for cell/tissue imaging and tracking, as well as phototherapeutics. An intriguing feature that has not been explored yet is their ability to adopt a range of asymmetric morphologies. Structural asymmetry allows nanoparticles to be exploited as active (motile) systems. Here, we present the design and preparation of AIE fluorophore integrated (AIEgenic) cucurbit-shaped polymersome nanomotors with enzyme-powered motility. The cucurbit scaffold was constructed via morphology engineering of biodegradable fluorescent AIE-polymersomes, followed by functionalization with enzymatic machinery via a layer-by-layer (LBL) self-assembly process. Because of the enzyme-mediated decomposition of chemical fuel on the cucurbit-like nanomotor surface, enhanced directed motion was attained, when compared with the spherical counterparts. These cucurbit-shaped biodegradable AIE-nanomotors provide a promising platform for the development of active delivery systems with potential for biomedical applications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18270-18278
Number of pages9
JournalACS Nano
Issue number11
Early online date20 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the ERC Advanced Grant Artisym 694120, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (Gravitation program 024.001.035), the NWO-NSFC Advanced Materials (project 792.001.015), and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks Nanomed, (No. 676137) for funding. We thank the Ser Cymru II program for support of DSW; this project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 663830. We also thank A. F. Mason for help with Cryo-TEM measurements.

Publisher Copyright:


  • polymersomes
  • nanomotors
  • aggregation-induced emission
  • morphology engineering
  • LBL assembly


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