Although a few Fmoc-functionalised amino acids (Fmoc-AA) are capable of forming hydrogels, the exact levels of hydrophobicity, hydrogen bonding, and ionic nature of the Fmoc-AA gelator required for hydrogel formation remains uncertain. Here, the role of hydrophobicity of amino acid side chain, particularly in the formation of hydrogel, was studied by using Fmoc-norleucine (Fmoc-Nle) and its simple sulfur analogues such as Fmoc-methionine (Fmoc-M) in which the γCH2 of Fmoc-Nle is replaced by sulfur. Results indicate that Fmoc-M forms thermally reversible hydrogels in water (pH ca. 6.8), whereas Fmoc-Nle fails to display any gelation under similar conditions. The result suggests that substitution of the sulfur atom likely reduces the hydrophobicity of the alkyl side chain in Fmoc-Nle to the optimum level, which is sufficient to induce supramolecular hydrogelation in Fmoc-M. The difference in the self-association behaviour of Fmoc-M and Fmoc-Nle emphasise the importance of weak noncovalent interaction between side chains (in addition to the hydrogen-bond and aromatic interactions) to stabilise supramolecular self-assembly of Fmoc-functionalised compounds. The current observations provide a lead to the design of new sulfur-based low molecular weight gelators for various potential applications.
- amino acids
- mechanical properties
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry