|Title||Heparin as a Bundler in a Self-Assembled Fibrous Network of Functionalized Protein-Based Polymers|
|Author(s)||Wlodarczyk-Biegun, Gosia; Slingerland, Cornelis J.; Werten, Marc W.T.; Hees, Ilse A. van; Wolf, Frits A. de; Vries, Renko de; Cohen Stuart, Martien; Kamperman, Marleen|
|Source||Biomacromolecules 17 (2016)6. - ISSN 1525-7797 - p. 2063 - 2072.|
Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter
|Publication type||Refereed Article in a scientific journal|
Nature shows excellent control over the mechanics of fibrous hydrogels by assembling protein fibers into bundles of well-defined dimensions. Yet, obtaining artificial materials displaying controlled bundling remains a challenge. Here, we developed genetically engineered protein-based polymers functionalized with heparin-binding KRSR domains and show controlled bundling using heparin as a binder. The protein polymer forms fibers upon increasing the pH to physiological values and at higher concentrations fibrous gels. We show that addition of heparin to the protein polymer with incorporated KRSR domains, induces bundling, which results in faster gel formation and stiffer gels. The interactions are expected to be primarily electrostatic and fiber bundling has an optimum when the positive charges of KRSR are approximately in balance with the negative charges of the heparin. Our study suggests that, generally, a straightforward method to control the properties of fibrous gels is to prepare a fiber former with specific binding domains and then simply adding an appropriate amount of binder.