Thiol–Thioester Exchange Reactions in Precursors Enable pH-Triggered Hydrogel Formation


Bio-interactive hydrogel formation in situ requires sensory capabilities toward physiologically relevant stimuli. Here, we report on pH-controlled in situ hydrogel formation relying on latent cross-linkers, which transform from pH sensors to reactive molecules. In particular, thiopeptolide/thio-depsipeptides were capable of pH-sensitive thiol–thioester exchange reactions to yield α,ω-dithiols, which react with maleimide-functionalized multi-arm polyethylene glycol to polymer networks. Their water solubility and diffusibility qualify thiol/thioester-containing peptide mimetics as sensory precursors to drive in situ localized hydrogel formation with potential applications in tissue regeneration such as treatment of inflamed tissues of the urinary tract.
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