Ordering of Polypeptides in Liquid Crystals, Gels and Micelles

  • Chunhua Cai
  • Jiaping LinEmail author
  • Zeliang Zhuang
  • Wenjie Zhu
Part of the Advances in Polymer Science book series (POLYMER, volume 259)


Ordered structures assembled from polypeptides have attracted a great deal of attention over the past few decades. Both α-helix and β-sheet conformations of polypeptides support the formation of ordered structures during the assembly process. For polypeptides with α-helix conformation, the ordered structures are formed mainly by side-by-side packing of α-helix rods. For polypeptides with β-sheet conformation, ordering of the chains can be achieved by parallel or antiparallel packing. The ordering characteristic of polypeptide chains gives rise to fascinating assembly behaviors of polypeptide homopolymers and copolymers in solution. Usually, a decrease in polymer concentration is accompanied by the assembly of polypeptides into liquid crystals (LCs), gels, and micelles. This review describes the ordering structures of polypeptides in these assemblies. In LC structures, polypeptide homopolymer chains are packed in a highly ordered fashion with smectic, nematic, and cholesteric phases. Both polypeptide homopolymers and copolymers support the formation of gels in solution. The dislocated side-by-side packing of polypeptide helices is the basic ordering characteristic of the polypeptides in gels. Compared with the α-helix conformation, gels formed from polypeptides with β-sheet conformation show higher stability. In dilute solutions, amphiphilic polypeptide copolymers can self-assemble into micelles that include cylinders, vesicles, and complex hierarchical structures. The ordering nature of the polypeptide chains can be observed in the assemblies. The close relationship with proteins makes polypeptides and their assembly structures ideal models for protein research and promising candidates in biorelated applications.


Gels Liquid crystals Micelles Ordered structure Polypeptide Self-assembly 



Atomic force microscopy


Biphasic region


Brownian dynamics


Deuterated chloroform




Dichloroacetic acid




Dendron-helical polypeptide




Degree of polymerization


Dissipative particle dynamics




Isotropic phase


Liquid crystal




Confocal laser scanning microscopy






Poly(γ-benzyl l-glutamate)


Poly(β-p-chlorobenzyl l-aspartate)


Polydispersity index




Poly(ethylene glycol)


Poly(ethylene oxide)




Poly[N 5-(2-hydroxyethyl) l-glutamine]








Poly(l-glutamic acid)




Poly(γ-methyl l-glutamate)




Polarizing optical micrograph


Poly(β-phenethyl l-aspartate)


Poly(ε-carbobenzoxy l-lysine)


Periodicity of cholesteric LC


Small-angle X-ray diffraction


Small-angle X-ray scattering


Scanning electron microscopy


Scanning force microscopy




Transmission electron microscopy


Trifluoroacetic acid





This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (50925308 and 21234002), Key Grant Project of Ministry of Education (313020), and National Basic Research Program of China (No. 2012CB933600). Support from projects of Shanghai municipality (10GG15 and 12ZR1442500) is also appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chunhua Cai
    • 1
  • Jiaping Lin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zeliang Zhuang
    • 1
  • Wenjie Zhu
    • 1
  1. 1.Shanghai Key Laboratory of Advanced Polymeric Materials, Key Laboratory for Ultrafine Materials of Ministry of Education, School of Materials Science and EngineeringEast China University of Science and TechnologyShanghaiChina

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