Block Polyelectrolyte Networks from Poly(acrylic acid) and Poly(ethylene oxide):  Sorption and Release of Cytochrome C

A new family of block polyelectrolyte networks containing cross-linked poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) and poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) was synthesized by copolymerization of acrylic acid and bisacrylated PEO (10 kDa). Two materials with different PEO/PAA ratios were compared with a weakly cross-linked PAA homopolymer network. The networks bound a cationic protein, cytochrome C, due to the polyion coupling, leading to the network contraction. After binding the protein the block polyelectrolyte networks were more porous compared to a homopolymer network, facilitating protein absorption within the gel. The protein was released by adding Ca2+ ions or a polycation. Ca2+ ions migrated within the gels and reacted with PAA chains, thus displacing the protein. The polycation transfer into hydrogels, as a result of polyion substitution reactions, was inhibited by the excess of PEO chains in the block polyelectrolyte networks. Overall, these findings advance development of functional polyelectrolyte networks for immobilization and controlled release of proteins.