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Influence of Charge Block Length on Conformation and Solution Behavior of Polyampholytes

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-25, 13:47 authored by Winnie H. Shi, Rohan S. Adhikari, Dilipkumar N. Asthagiri, Amanda B. Marciel
We investigate the effect of charge block length on polyampholyte chain conformation and phase behavior using small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and implicit-solvent molecular simulations. To this end, we use solid phase peptide synthesis to precision-tailor a series of polyampholytes consisting of l-glutamic acid (E) and l-lysine (K) monomers arranged in alternating blocks from 2 to 16 monomers. We observe that the polyampholytes tend to phase separate as block size increases. With addition of NaCl, phase separated polyampholytes exhibit a salting-in effect dependent on charge block length. Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy reveals the presence of intramolecular hydrogen bonds that are disrupted upon the addition of NaCl, implicating both electrostatic interactions and hydrogen bonding in the phase behavior. SAXS spectra at no-added salt conditions show minimal dependence of charge block length on the radius of gyration (Rg) for soluble polyampholytes, but local chain stiffening is found to be dependent on charge block length. With increasing NaCl, consistent with electrostatic screening, all polyampholytes expand and behave as neutral or swollen chains in good solvent conditions. Molecular simulations are qualitatively consistent with experiments. Implications for understanding intracellular condensates and material design are noted.