Chirality-controlled polymerization-induced self-assembly

Chem Sci. 2022 Nov 17;13(47):14179-14190. doi: 10.1039/d2sc05695j. eCollection 2022 Dec 7.


Recent studies have shown that biodegradable nanoparticles can be efficiently prepared with polymerization of N-carboxyanhydrides-induced self-assembly (NCA-PISA). However, thus far, the effect of chiral monomer ratio on such NCA-PISA formulations and the resulting nanoparticles has not yet been fully explored. Herein, we show, for the first time, that the morphology, secondary structure, and biodegradation rate of PISA nanoparticles can be controlled by altering the chiral ratio of the core-forming monomers. This chirality-controlled PISA (CC-PISA) method allowed the preparation of nanoparticles that are more adjustable and applicable for future biomedical applications. Additionally, the complex secondary peptide structure (ratio of α-helix to β-sheet) and π-π stacking affect the polymer self-assembly process. More specifically, a PEG45 macro-initiator was chain-extended with l- and d-phenylalanine (l- and d-Phe-NCA) in various molar ratios in dry THF at 15 wt%. This ring-opening polymerization (ROP) allowed the preparation of homo- and hetero-chiral Phe-peptide block copolymers that self-assembled in situ into nanoparticles. For homo-chiral formulations, polymers self-assembled into vesicles once a sufficiently high phenylalanine degree of polymerization (DP) was obtained. Hetero-chiral formulations formed larger nanoparticles with various morphologies and, much to our surprise, using an equal enantiomer ratio inhibited PISA and led to a polymer solution instead. Finally, it was shown that the enzymatic biodegradation rate of such PISA particles is greatly affected by the polymer chirality. This PISA approach could be of great value to fabricate nanoparticles that exploit chirality in disease treatment.