Abstract

By means of two supramolecular systems—peptide amphiphiles engaged in hydrogen-bonded β-sheets, and chromophore amphiphiles driven to assemble by π-orbital overlaps—we show that the minima in the energy landscapes of supramolecular systems are defined by electrostatic repulsion and the ability of the dominant attractive forces to trap molecules in thermodynamically unfavourable configurations. These competing interactions can be selectively switched on and off, with the order of doing so determining the position of the final product in the energy landscape. Within the same energy landscape, the peptide-amphiphile system forms a thermodynamically favoured product characterized by long bundled fibres that promote biological cell adhesion and survival, and a metastable product characterized by short monodisperse fibres that interfere with adhesion and can lead to cell death. Our findings suggest that, in supramolecular systems, functions and energy landscapes are linked, superseding the more traditional connection between molecular design and function.

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Acknowledgements

Synthesis of PAs, their morphological assessments, MD simulations and free energy calculations were supported by the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Sciences (CBES), an Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC) funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under award number DE-SC0000989. The biological studies were supported by National Institutes of Health NIDCR grant (R01DE015920). J.B., F.T. and J.L. are grateful for support by a Rubicon Fellowship of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Royal Thai Government scholarship and the Northwestern University Bioscientist Program, respectively. We acknowledge the following core facilities at Northwestern University: the Peptide Synthesis Core at the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology, the Biological Imaging Facility (supported by the Northwestern University Office for Research), the Center for Advanced Microscopy (NCI CCSG P30 CA060553), Keck Biophysics Facility, the EPIC, SPID facility (NUANCE Center- NSF DMR-1121262 and NSF EEC-0647560). The authors thank M. Seniw for help with graphics.

Author information

Author notes

    • Faifan Tantakitti
    •  & Job Boekhoven

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Job Boekhoven
    •  & Christina J. Newcomb

    Present addresses: Institute for Advanced Study and Department of Chemistry, Technische Universität München, Lichtenbergstrasse 2A, 85748 Garching near Munich, Germany (J.B.); Physical Sciences Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington 99352, USA (C.J.N.).

Affiliations

  1. Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology, Northwestern University, 303 East Superior Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA

    • Faifan Tantakitti
    • , Job Boekhoven
    • , Julia H. Ortony
    • , Christina J. Newcomb
    • , Liam C. Palmer
    •  & Samuel I. Stupp
  2. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University, 2220 Campus Drive, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA

    • Faifan Tantakitti
    • , Xin Wang
    • , Julia H. Ortony
    • , Gajendra S. Shekhawat
    • , Monica Olvera de la Cruz
    •  & Samuel I. Stupp
  3. Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, 2220 Campus Drive, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA

    • Job Boekhoven
    • , Roman V. Kazantsev
    • , Tao Yu
    • , Ellen Zhuang
    • , Roya Zandi
    • , Liam C. Palmer
    • , Monica Olvera de la Cruz
    • , George C. Schatz
    •  & Samuel I. Stupp
  4. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA

    • Jiahe Li
    • , Monica Olvera de la Cruz
    •  & George C. Schatz
  5. Department of Physics & Astronomy, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA

    • Monica Olvera de la Cruz
  6. Department of Biomedical Engineering, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA

    • Samuel I. Stupp
  7. Department of Medicine, Northwestern University, 251 East Huron Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA

    • Samuel I. Stupp

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Contributions

F.T. and J.B. designed and performed experiments, analysed data, and wrote the manuscript. X.W., R.V.K., G.S.S., E.Z., R.Z., C.J.N., J.H.O., J.L. and L.C.P. performed experiments, analysed data and took part in discussions. T.Y., G.C.S. and M.O.d.l.C. developed and performed theoretical calculations and took part in discussions. S.I.S. wrote the manuscript and supervised the research.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Samuel I. Stupp.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat4538

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