We have investigated the effect of doping the self-assembling octapeptide FEFEFKFK (F, phenylalanine; E, glutamic acid; K, lysine) hydrogels with various amounts of thermoresponsive conjugate of FEFEFKFK and poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm) in order to create novel hydrogels. The samples were characterized using a range of techniques including microdifferential scanning calorimetry (μDSC), oscillatory rheology, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and small angle neutron scattering (SANS). The peptide from the conjugate was shown to be incorporated into the peptide fiber, resulting in the polymer being anchored to the peptide fiber. The conjugation of the polymer to the peptide and its anchoring to the peptide fibers did not affect its lower critical solution temperature (LCST). On the other hand, it did result in a decrease in the LCST enthalpy and a significant increase in the G′ of the hydrogels, suggesting the presence of hydrogen bond interactions between the peptide and the polymer. As a result, the polymer was found to adopt a fibrillar arrangement tightly covering the peptide fiber. The polymer was still found to go through a conformational change at the LCST, suggesting that it collapses onto the peptide fiber. On the other hand, the fibrillar network was found to be mainly unaffected by the polymer LCST. These changes at the LCST were also found to be fully reversible. The nature of the interaction between the polymer and the peptide was shown to have a significant effect on the conformation adopted by the polymer around the fibers and the mechanical properties of the hydrogels.
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|Published - 2014