Crescent-Shaped Supramolecular Tetrapeptide Nanostructures

J Am Chem Soc. 2020 Nov 25;142(47):20058-20065. doi: 10.1021/jacs.0c09399. Epub 2020 Nov 13.


Self-assembly of amphiphilic peptide-based building blocks gives rise to a plethora of interesting nanostructures such as ribbons, fibers, and tubes. However, it remains a great challenge to employ peptide self-assembly to directly produce nanostructures with lower symmetry than these highly symmetric motifs. We report here our discovery that persistent and regular crescent nanostructures with a diameter of 28 ± 3 nm formed from a series of tetrapeptides with the general structure AdKSKSEX (Ad = adamantyl group, KS = lysine residue functionalized with an S-aroylthiooxime (SATO) group, E = glutamic acid residue, and X = variable amino acid residue). In the presence of cysteine, the biological signaling gas hydrogen sulfide (H2S) was released from the SATO units of the crescent nanostructures, termed peptide-H2S donor conjugates (PHDCs), reducing levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in macrophage cells. Additional in vitro studies showed that the crescent nanostructures alleviated cytotoxicity induced by phorbol 12-myristate-13-acetate more effectively than common H2S donors and a PHDC of a similar chemical structure, AdKSKSE, that formed short nanoworms instead of nanocrescents. Cell internalization studies indicated that nanocrescent-forming PHDCs were more effective in reducing ROS levels in macrophages because they entered into and remained in cells better than nanoworms, highlighting how nanostructure morphology can affect bioactivity in drug delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / chemistry
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / metabolism
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Oligopeptides / chemistry*
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology


  • Oligopeptides
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate
  • Hydrogen Sulfide