Self-assembling cyclic peptide–polymer nanotubes have emerged as a fascinating supramolecular system, well suited for a diverse range of biomedical applications. Due to their well-defined diameter, tunable peptide anatomy, and ability to disassemble in situ, they have been investigated as promising materials for numerous applications including biosensors, antimicrobials, and drug delivery. Despite this continuous effort, the underlying mechanisms of assembly and disassembly are still not fully understood. In particular, the exchange of units between individual assembled nanotubes has been overlooked so far, despite its knowledge being essential for understanding their behavior in different environments. To investigate the dynamic nature of these systems, cyclic peptide–polymer nanotubes are synthesized, conjugated with complementary dyes, which undergo a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) in close proximity. Model conjugates enable to demonstrate not only that their self-assembly is highly dynamic and not kinetically trapped, but also that the self-assembly of the conjugates is strongly influenced by both solvent and concentration. Additionally, the versatility of the FRET system allows studying the dynamic exchange of these systems in mammalian cells in vitro using confocal microscopy, demonstrating the exchange of subunits between assembled nanotubes in the highly complex environment of a cell.
- cyclic peptide nanotubes
- Förster resonance energy transfer
- peptide–polymer conjugates
- supramolecular polymers