Biomacromolecules, 2019, vol 20, 12, pp. 4611-4621
Biomacromolecular antifreezes distinguish ice from water, function by binding to specific planes of ice, and could have many applications from cryobiology to aerospace where ice is a problem. In biology, antifreeze protein (AFP) activity is regulated by protein expression levels via temperature and light-regulated expression systems, but in the laboratory (or applications), the antifreeze activity is always on without any spatial or temporal control, and hence methods to enable this switching represent an exciting synthetic challenge. Introduction of an abiotic functionality into short peptides (e.g., from solid-phase synthesis) to enable switching is also desirable rather than on full-length recombinant proteins. Here, truncated peptide sequences based on the consensus repeat sequence from type-I AFPs (TAANAAAAAAA) were conjugated to an anthracene unit to explore their photocontrolled dimerization. Optimization of the synthesis to ensure solubility of the hydrophobic peptide included the addition of a dilysine solubilizing linker. It was shown that UV-light exposure triggered reversible dimerization of the AFP sequence, leading to an increase in molecular weight. Assessment of the ice recrystallization inhibition activity of the peptides before and after dimerization revealed only small effects on activity. However, it is reported here for the first time that addition of the anthracene unit to a 22-amino-acid truncated peptide significantly enhanced ice recrystallization inhibition compared to the free peptide, suggesting an accessible synthetic route to allow AFP activity using shorter, synthetically accessible peptides with a photoreactive functionality.