Hydration states of polymers are known to directly influence the adsorption of biomolecules. Particularly, intermediate water (IW) has been found able to prevent protein adsorption. Experimental studies have examined the IW content and nonthrombogenicity of poly(2-methoxyethyl acrylate) analogues with different side-chain spacings and lengths, which are HPx (x is the number of backbone carbons in a monomer) and PMCyA (y is the number of carbons in-between ester and ether oxygens of the side-chain) series, respectively. HPx was reported to possess more IW content but lower nonthrombogenicity compared to PMCyA with analogous composition. To understand the reason for the conflict, molecular dynamics simulations were conducted to elucidate the difference in the properties between the HPx and PMCyA. Simulation results showed that the presence of more methylene groups in the side chain more effectively prohibits water penetration in the polymer than those in the polymer backbone, causing a lower IW content in the PMCyA. At a high water content, the methoxy oxygen in the shorter side chain of the HPx cannot effectively bind water compared to that in the PMCyA side chain. HPx side chains may have more room to contact with molecules other than water (e.g., proteins), causing experimentally less nonthrombogenicity of HPx than that of PMCyA. In summary, theoretical simulations successfully explained the difference in the effects of side-chain spacing and length in atomistic scale.
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