Synthetic Semiflexible and Bioactive Brushes

Biomacromolecules. 2019 Jul 8;20(7):2587-2597. doi: 10.1021/acs.biomac.9b00385. Epub 2019 Jun 13.


Polymer brushes are extensively used for the preparation of bioactive surfaces. They form a platform to attach functional (bio)molecules and control the physicochemical properties of the surface. These brushes are nearly exclusively prepared from flexible polymers, even though much stiffer brushes from semiflexible polymers are frequently found in nature, which exert bioactive functions that are out of reach for flexible brushes. Synthetic semiflexible polymers, however, are very rare. Here, we use polyisocyanopeptides (PICs) to prepare high-density semiflexible brushes on different substrate geometries. For bioconjugation, we developed routes with two orthogonal click reactions, based on the strain-promoted azide-alkyne cycloaddition reaction and the (photoactivated) tetrazole-ene cycloaddition reaction. We found that for high brush densities, multiple bonds between the polymer and the substrate are necessary, which was achieved in a block copolymer strategy. Whether the desired biomolecules are conjugated to the PIC polymer before or after brush formation depends on the dimensions and required densities of the biomolecules and the curvature of the substrate. In either case, we provide mild, aqueous, and highly modular reaction strategies, which make PICs a versatile addition to the toolbox for generating semiflexible bioactive polymer brush surfaces.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cycloaddition Reaction*
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis*
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Polymerization*
  • Surface Properties


  • Peptides