Water-Assisted and Protein-Initiated Ring-Opening Polymerization of Proline N-Carboxyanhydride

25 May 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The production of poly-L-proline (PLP) via the ring-opening polymerization (ROP) of L-proline N-carboxyanhydride (ProNCA) is challenging due to a combination of factors, including the stringent requirement of moisture-free conditions, slow monomer conversion, poor control of the molar mass, and premature precipitation of the product in the form of polyproline type I helix. Here, we report water-assisted ROP of ProNCA, which affords well-defined PLP in polyproline II helix in 2-5 minutes. Density functional theory reveals an as-yet-unreported role of water in facilitating proton shift that significantly lowered the energy barrier of the chain propagation. Protein-mediated ROP of ProNCA conveniently affords various protein-PLP conjugates via a grafting-from approach. PLP conjugation not only preserves the biological activities of the native proteins, but also enhances the stability of proteins against extreme conditions. This work provides a simple means and new mechanistic insight to solve a longstanding problem in PLP synthesis and will offer valuable guidance for the development of water-resistant ROP of other NCAs. The facile access of PLP can greatly boost the application potentials of PLP-based functional materials.


polyproline II helix
protein-polymer conjugate


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.