Self-transformation and structural reconfiguration in coacervate-based protocells

Stephen Mann, Avinash Patil, Robert Harniman, Ravinash Krishna Kumar

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

31 Citations (Scopus)
458 Downloads (Pure)


A functionalized small-molecule dipeptide capable of structural adaptation is used to prepare coacervatebased protocells that exhibit a pH-triggered process of self-transformation and structural reconfiguration. Polymer-dipeptide coacervate micro-droplets are prepared at pH 8.5 from aqueous mixtures of
poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) and deprotonated N-(fluorenyl-9-methoxycarbonyl)-D-Ala-D-Ala, and transform into discrete aster-like micro-architectures by controlled lowering of the pH to 4.5. Reconfiguration of the micro-droplets results in entanglement and formation of an interpenetrating
fibrous network that subsequently develops into a polymer-containing dipeptide hydrogel. Our results provide a step towards the assembly of synthetic protocells exhibiting rudimentary aspects of metamorphosis, and should offer a new approach to the design and construction of soft reconfigurable chemical micro-ensembles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5879-5887
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Science
Issue number9
Early online date25 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Coacervate droplets
  • Protocells
  • Self-assembled fibers
  • Hydrogels
  • Soft-Matter


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