|The biological function of a protein is determined by its amino acid sequence, structure, and internal dynamics. In turn the prediction of a protein structure from its folding pathway involves the characterization of the dynamics of the polypeptide backbone. This study addresses how the internal dynamics of arborescent polypeptides are affected by increased crowding of the interior of these branched polymer molecules.
Linear, comb-branched, and arborescent poly(L-glutamic acid) (PGA) samples were analyzed by 1H NMR spectroscopy to determine their chain conformation. The PGA chains of these constructs were shown to adopt α-helical and random coil conformations in N,N-dimethylformamide (DMF) and in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), respectively. The hydrodynamic diameter (Dh) of the arborescent PGAs, determined using dynamic light scattering measurements, increased with increasing generation number and when the side-chains adopted random coil instead of α-helical conformations.
The PGA samples were labelled with 1-pyrenemethylamine to determine how their structure affected the internal dynamics of the arborescent polymers in solution, from the analysis of their fluorescence spectra and decays. For each pyrene-labelled polymeric construct excimer formation increased with increasing pyrene content, and the efficiency of excimer formation increased with the generation number due to the increased density of the macromolecules. Comparison of the time-resolved fluorescence results acquired in DMF and in DMSO demonstrated that the helical conformation led to slower chain dynamics in DMF and that despite the higher viscosity of DMSO, the polypeptide side-chains were more mobile as a consequence of the random coil conformation of the linear PGA segments. These results suggest that the formation of structural motives inside a polypeptide slows down its internal dynamics.