Photo-Crosslinkable Unnatural Amino Acids Enable Facile Synthesis of Thermoresponsive Nano- to Microgels of Intrinsically Disordered Polypeptides

Simone A. Costa, Joseph R. Simon, Miriam Amiram, Lei Tang, Stefan Zauscher, Eric M. Brustad, Farren J. Isaacs, Ashutosh Chilkoti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Hydrogel particles are versatile materials that provide exquisite, tunable control over the sequestration and delivery of materials in pharmaceutics, tissue engineering, and photonics. The favorable properties of hydrogel particles depend largely on their size, and particles ranging from nanometers to micrometers are used in different applications. Previous studies have only successfully fabricated these particles in one specific size regime and required a variety of materials and fabrication methods. A simple yet powerful system is developed to easily tune the size of polypeptide-based, thermoresponsive hydrogel particles, from the nano- to microscale, using a single starting material. Particle size is controlled by the self-assembly and unique phase transition behavior of elastin-like polypeptides in bulk and within microfluidic-generated droplets. These particles are then stabilized through ultraviolet irradiation of a photo-crosslinkable unnatural amino acid (UAA) cotranslationally incorporated into the parent polypeptide. The thermoresponsive property of these particles provides an active mechanism for actuation and a dynamic responsive to the environment. This work represents a fundamental advance in the generation of crosslinked biomaterials, especially in the form of soft matter colloids, and is one of the first demonstrations of successful use of UAAs in generating a novel material.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1704878
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • bioinspired materials
  • hydrogel particles
  • recombinant proteins
  • unnatural amino acids
  • unstructured polypeptides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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