Supramolecular Protein Stabilization with Zwitterionic Polypeptide-Cucurbit[7]uril Conjugates

Biomacromolecules. 2023 Jan 9;24(1):481-488. doi: 10.1021/acs.biomac.2c01319. Epub 2022 Dec 13.


Protein aggregation is an obstacle for the development of new biopharmaceuticals, presenting challenges in shipping and storage of vital therapies. Though a variety of materials and methods have been explored, the need remains for a simple material that is biodegradable, nontoxic, and highly efficient at stabilizing protein therapeutics. In this work, we investigated zwitterionic polypeptides prepared using a rapid and scalable polymerization technique and conjugated to a supramolecular macrocycle host, cucurbit[7]uril, for the ability to inhibit aggregation of model protein therapeutics insulin and calcitonin. The polypeptides are based on the natural amino acid methionine, and zwitterion sulfonium modifications were compared to analogous cationic and neutral structures. Each polymer was end-modified with a single cucurbit[7]uril macrocycle to afford supramolecular recognition and binding to terminal aromatic amino acids on proteins. Only conjugates prepared from zwitterionic structures of sufficient chain lengths were efficient inhibitors of insulin aggregation and could also inhibit aggregation of calcitonin. This polypeptide exhibited no cytotoxicity in human cells even at concentrations that were five-fold of the intended therapeutic regime. We explored treatment of the zwitterionic polypeptides with a panel of natural proteases and found steady biodegradation as expected, supporting eventual clearance when used as a protein formulation additive.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bridged-Ring Compounds* / chemistry
  • Calcitonin / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Insulins / chemistry
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Protein Stability*


  • Bridged-Ring Compounds
  • Calcitonin
  • cucurbit(7)uril
  • Insulins
  • Peptides