Self-assembly of peptide amphiphiles (PAs) has been an active research area as the assemblies can be programmed into variously shaped nanostructures. Although cylindrical micelles are common structures, gold-binding peptide conjugates can self-assemble into chiral nanofibers with single or double helices. When gold nanoparticles bind to the helices, the resulting chiral nanoparticle assemblies have a collective plasmonic circular dichroism signal that can serve as nanoscale circular polarizers or chiroptical sensors. A better atomic-level understanding of the factors which lead to helical PA assemblies is therefore of significant importance. In this study we show that all-atom molecular dynamics simulations can describe the spontaneous structural transformation from a planar assembly of PAs to a twisted assembly or to a helical ribbon. The twist angle and the helical diameter calculated from the simulations closely match the experimental results, with the oxidation of a single Met residue in each PA leading to a change from bilayer to monolayer assemblies with significantly different ribbon properties. A secondary structure analysis shows how a combination of β-sheet formation near the hydrophobic core of the micelle and PPII structures from proline-rich C-terminus regions favors helix formation. The simulations presented here demonstrate the capability of predicting self-assembly in chiral structures, protocols that can easily be applied to the assembly of other amphiphilic molecules.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)