Supramolecular hydrogel networks formed by molecular recognition of collagen and a peptide grafted to hyaluronic acid


The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a nano-structured, highly complex hydrogel, in which the macromolecules are organized primarily by non-covalent interactions. Here, in a biomimetic approach, the decorin-derived collagen-binding peptide LSELRLHNN was grafted to hyaluronic acid (HA) in order to enable the formation of a supramolecular hydrogel network together with collagen. The storage modulus of a mixture of collagen and HA was increased by more than one order of magnitude (G′ = 157 Pa) in the presence of the HA-grafted peptide compared to a mixture of collagen and HA (G′ = 6 Pa). The collagen fibril diameter was decreased, as quantified using electron microscopy, in the presence of the HA-grafted peptide. Here, the peptide mimicked the function of decorin by spatially organizing collagen. The advantage of this approach is that the non-covalent crosslinks between collagen molecules and the HA chains created by the peptide form a reversible and dynamic hydrogel, which could be employed for a diverse range of applications in regenerative medicine.
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