Inspired by marine siderophores that exhibit a morphological shift upon metal coordination, researchers in the Knight Group, published in Jacs, have designed hybrid peptide–polymer conjugates that assemble into different morphologies based on the nature of the metal ion coordination.
Coupling of a peptide chelator, hexahistidine, with hydrophobic oligostyrene allows a modular strategy to be established for the efficient synthesis and purification of these tunable amphiphiles (oSt(His)6). Remarkably, in the presence of different divalent transition metal ions, such as Mn, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, and Cd, a variety of morphologies were observed.
Zinc(II), cobalt(II), and copper(II) led to aggregated micelles. Nickel(II) and cadmium(II) produced micelles, and multilamellar vesicles were obtained in the presence of manganese(II). This work highlights the significant potential for transition metal ion coordination as a tool for directing the assembly of synthetic nanomaterials.