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Zwitterionic Polypeptides: Chemoenzymatic Synthesis and Loosening Function for Cellulose Crystals

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posted on 23.01.2020, 23:43 by Kousuke Tsuchiya, Neval Yilmaz, Takaaki Miyamoto, Hiroyasu Masunaga, Keiji Numata
A polypeptide with a GlyHisGly repeating sequence containing zwitterionic structures that effectively interact with cellulose was synthesized for dissociation of cellulose crystals. Polypeptide with the GlyHisGly sequence was synthesized by chemoenzymatic polymerization and postfunctionalization of the His residues was performed to afford imidazolium butyrate on the side chains. The resulting zwitterionic polypeptide effectively dissociated bundles of tunicate cellulose nanocrystals, even when the conditions were mild and the concentration of the polypeptide was as low as 1–2 mg mL–1. Polypeptide treatment also affected the morphology of the cell walls in cultured plant cells, and the cellulose microfibril networks and amorphous polysaccharide layer were dissociated according to atomic force microscopy (AFM). The zwitterionic polypeptide treatment did not change the crystal structure of the cellulose nanocrystals. Analysis of the mechanical properties of the cellulose nanocrystals by force curve measurements using AFM revealed that the elastic modulus of the cellulose nanocrystals increased after treatment with the zwitterionic polypeptide, indicating that the amorphous part of the cellulose nanocrystals was removed by interactions with the polypeptide. At a concentration of the polypeptide that enabled the dissociation of the cellulose network, the zwitterionic polypeptide showed negligible cytotoxicity to the plant cells. The mild and noncytotoxic technique for loosening cellulose microfibrils/nanocrystals that was developed in this study has tremendous significance for the modification of cellulose in terms of polymer chemistry, material science, and plant biotechnology.