Mussel inspired dynamic cross-linking of self-healing peptide nanofiber network

Hakan Ceylan, Mustafa Urel, Turan S. Erkal, Ayse B. Tekinay, Aykutlu Dana, Mustafa O. Guler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A general drawback of supramolecular peptide networks is their weak mechanical properties. In order to overcome a similar challenge, mussels have adapted to a pH-dependent iron complexation strategy for adhesion and curing. This strategy also provides successful stiffening and self-healing properties. The present study is inspired by the mussel curing strategy to establish iron cross-link points in self-assembled peptide networks. The impact of peptide-iron complexation on the morphology and secondary structure of the supramolecular nanofibers is characterized by scanning electron microscopy, circular dichroism and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Mechanical properties of the cross-linked network are probed by small angle oscillatory rheology and nanoindentation by atomic force microscopy. It is shown that iron complexation has no influence on self-assembly and β-sheet-driven elongation of the nanofibers. On the other hand, the organic-inorganic hybrid network of iron cross-linked nanofibers demonstrates strong mechanical properties comparable to that of covalently cross-linked network. Strikingly, iron cross-linking does not inhibit intrinsic reversibility of supramolecular peptide polymers into disassembled building blocks and the self-healing ability upon high shear load. The strategy described here could be extended to improve mechanical properties of a wide range of supramolecular polymer networks. A simple and versatile method for improving mechanical performance of supramolecular polymers is described. Inspired by a mussel curing mechanism, reversible iron cross-linking into a self-assembled peptide network significantly enhances the mechanical properties while having no impact on the β-sheet-driven self-assembly. The network retains its pH-dependent reversibility and self-healing properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2081-2090
Number of pages10
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 25 2013


  • biomimetics
  • hybrid materials
  • hydrogels
  • self-assembly
  • supramolecular materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • General Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • General Materials Science
  • Electrochemistry
  • Biomaterials


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