American Chemical Society
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Effect of Crosslinker Topology on Enzymatic Degradation of Hydrogels

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-07-23, 19:33 authored by Yulia Shmidov, Yumeng Zhu, John B. Matson, Ronit Bitton
Despite the widespread use of hydrogels in biomedical applications, little is known regarding the effect of crosslinker topology on hydrogel degradation. Dendritic and linear elastin-like peptides (ELPs) were used as crosslinkers for hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels, and their enzymatic degradation was studied using trypsin. Rheological studies revealed that hydrogels crosslinked with ELP dendrimers (HA_denELPs) degraded more slowly than those crosslinked with the otherwise equivalent linear ELPs (i.e., both molecules have the same number of pentamers and peripheral lysine residues). The origin of this phenomenon was evaluated using solution studies in which various dendritic and linear ELPs were treated with trypsin. Apart from the expected steric hindrances due to the dendritic topology, we identified the dual directionality of the peptide sequences (generated by a central branching lysine residue) and the likelihood of cleaving a productive crosslinking point as two additional contributors to the lesser degradability of HA_denELPs. Overall, these results highlight how the molecular design of crosslinker topology represents a novel strategy to tune the degradation rate of hydrogels.