Elastin-like peptides (ELPs) are distinct, repetitive, hydrophobic sequences, such as (VPGVG)n, that exhibit coacervation, the property of reversible, temperature-dependent self-association and dissociation. ELPs can be found in elastin and have been developed as new scaffold biomaterials. However, the detailed relationship between their amino acid sequences and coacervation properties remains obscure because of the structural flexibility of ELPs. In this study, we synthesized a novel, dimeric ELP analogue (H-C(WPGVG)3-NH2)2, henceforth abbreviated (CW3)2, and analyzed its self-assembly properties and structural factors as indicators of coacervation. Turbidity measurements showed that (CW3)2 demonstrated coacervation at a concentration much lower than that of its monomeric form and another ELP. In addition, the coacervate held water-soluble dye molecules. Thus, potent and distinct coacervation was obtained with a remarkably short sequence of (CW3)2. Furthermore, fluorescence microscopy, dynamic light scattering, and optical microscopy revealed that the coacervation of (CW3)2 was a stepwise process. The structural factors of (CW3)2 were analyzed by molecular dynamics simulations and circular dichroism spectroscopy. These measurements indicated that helical structures primarily consisting of proline and glycine became more disordered at high temperatures with concurrent, significant exposure of their hydrophobic surfaces. This extreme change in the hydrophobic surface contributes to the potent coacervation observed for (CW3)2. These results provide important insights into more efficient applications of ELPs and their analogues, as well as the coacervation mechanisms of ELP and elastin.
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