Effects of electrostatics and peptide size on peptide interactions with surface-bound microgels were investigated with ellipsometry, confocal microscopy, and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Results show that binding of cationic poly-L-lysine (pLys) to anionic, covalently immobilized, poly(ethyl acrylate-co-methacrylic acid) micro gels increased with increasing peptide net charge and microgel charge density. Furthermore, peptide release was facilitated by decreasing either microgel or peptide charge density. Analogously, increasing ionic strength facilitated peptide release for short peptides. As a result of peptide binding, the surface-bound microgels displayed pronounced deswelling and increased mechanical rigidity, the latter quantified by quantitative nanomechanical mapping. While short pLys was found to penetrate the entire microgel network and to result in almost complete charge neutralization, larger peptides were partially excluded from the microgel network, forming an outer peptide layer on the microgels. As a result of this difference, microgel flattening was more influenced by the lower Mw peptide than the higher. Peptide-induced deswelling was found to be lower for higher Mw pLys, the latter effect not observed for the corresponding microgels in the dispersed state. While the effects of electrostatics on peptide loading and release were similar to those observed for dispersed microgels, there were thus considerable effects of the underlying surface on peptide-induced microgel deswelling, which need to be considered in the design of surface-bound microgels as carriers of peptide loads, for example, in drug delivery or in functionalized biomaterials.
American Chemical Society (ACS), 2016. Vol. 17, no 2, 669-678 p.