Three-dimensional cell culture of chondrocytes on modified di-phenylalanine scaffolds

V. Jayawarna, A. Smith, J. E. Gough, R. V. Ulijn

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    The design of self-assembled peptide-based structures for three-dimensional cell culture and tissue repair has been a key objective in biomaterials science for decades. In search of the simplest possible peptide system that can self-assemble, we discovered that combinations of di-peptides that are modified with aromatic stacking ligands could form nanometre-sized fibres when exposed to physiological conditions. For example, we demonstrated that a number of Fmoc (fluoren-9-ylmethyloxycarbonyl) modified di- and tri-peptides form highly ordered hydrogels via hydrogen-bonding and π-π interactions from the fluorenyl rings. These highly hydrated gels allowed for cell proliferation of chondrocytes in three dimensions [Jayawarna, Ali, Jowitt, Miller, Saiani, Gough and Ulijn (2006) Adv. Mater. 18, 611-614]. We demonstrated that fibrous architecture and physical properties of the resulting materials were dictated by the nature of the amino acid building blocks. Here, we report the self-assembly process of three di-phenylalanine analogues, Fmoc-Phe-Phe-OH, Nap (naphthalene)-Phe-Phe-OH and Cbz (benzyloxycarbonyl)-Phe-Phe-OH, to compare and contrast the self-assembly properties and cell culture conditions attributable to their protecting group difference. Fibre morphology analysis of the three structures using cryo-SEM (scanning electron microscopy) and TEM (transmission electron microscopy) suggested fibrous structures with dramatically varying fibril dimensions, depending on the aromatic ligand used. CD and FTIR (Fourier-transform IR) data confirmed β-sheet arrangements in all three samples in the gel state. The ability of these three new hydrogels to support cell proliferation of chondrocytes was confirmed for all three materials. ©2007 Biochemical Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)535-537
    Number of pages2
    JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


    • Cell proliferation
    • Chondrocyte
    • Fluoren-9-ylmethyloxycarbonyl (Fmoc)
    • Hydrogel
    • Self-assembly
    • Three-dimensional cell culture


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