Maxier’s comment on: Macromolecular Crowding Modifies the Impact of Specific Hofmeister Ions on the Coil–Globule Transition of PNIPAM

By Maxier Acosta Santiago

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While the recently discussed Cremer paper described efforts towards understanding the effect on the LCST of PNIPAM by salts of the Hofmeister’s series, Sakota’s article went somewhat deeper into the study of this phenomenon by taking in consideration molecular crowding. Sakota’s group decided to use a PEG polymer as a crowding agent. Crowding may affect the biding of anions from the Hofmeister’s series and the PNIPAM resulting in a change in the LCST. First, they studied the presence of PEG in a PNIPAM solution showing that the crowding agent reduces the LCST. Kosmotropic anions, that decrease the LCST, but chaotropes increase the LCST. For the Hofemeister series effect on LCST we can go back to Luis Prieto’s blog post and Cremer’s paper which explains this effect better.

When the article begins to look at the presence of PEG at different salt concentrations, they see a close correlation between the LCST and the Hofmeister series. Yet, for the chaotropes ClO4⁻ and SCN⁻, the presence of PEG lead to a larger increase in the LCST. From here they decide to apply different theories to explain the results. Within the examined theories they discuss around thermodynamics of the system. Their explanation evolves as follows, even if the organization via LCST of PNIPAM is not thermodynamically favorable, the overlapping excluded volumes of PEG and the PNIPAM particles increase the translational entropy of water molecules in solution, which makes the formation of the system possible.

Although this paper brings something new to the table to discuss (molecular crowding and LCST), I do have some concerns. When taking into consideration so many different factors like molecular crowding, salt, and the responsive system itself, we should look deeper into the behavior. To limit certain factors, they maintained certain constant concentrations throughout the paper. Yet, in the discussion, I feel they lacked additional experimental results or computational studies (using molecular and/or coarse-grained simulations) to support their theoretical thermodynamics analysis.

José’s comment on: Intelligent, Biodegradable, and Self-Healing Hydrogels Utilizing DNA Quadruplexes

By José M. Martinez

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This paper is about making of a water based gel made from the supramolecular interactions of guanosine rich oligonucleotides. They attached these oligonucleotides symmetrically into the ends of PEG chains of variable lengths and conformations. This was made through High Efficiency Liquid Phase (HELP) synthesis. This synthetic strategy, as its name says, occurs in a liquid phase instead of the usual solid phase synthesis. The purpose of this is to allow them to obtain greater quantities of product more easily without risking the effectiveness. These DNA-PEG-DNA monomers have the ability, when diluted and presented with a cation (K+ or Na+), to self-assemble its DNA moieties through non-covalent interactions to for G-quadruplexes. Those strong interactions change the physical properties of the solution by forming a hydrogel. In the study, it was proven that the concentration of the cation required to trigger the self-assembly is relatively small. It is even compared to the concentration of salts found in body-related fluids like sweat, saliva, and tears. The hydrogel also has the capability to heal itself and interact by diffusion with another of the same kind. Finally, it was found that by adding a few extra nucleotides to the DNA moiety of the monomer and a matching strand for that part, the G-quadruplexes could be disassembled, returning the gel back to its liquid phase. All the previously stated properties indicate potential uses of this hydrogel for biomedical purposes.
Regarding myself, I learned mostly about the molecular aspect of gels and how they are formed. It was very interesting seeing the role that the supramolecular interactions played in the formation of this particular gel and the experiments made to investigate further into its properties.

JMM: Tanaka, 2017. Intelligent, Biodegradable, and Self-Healing Hydrogels Utilizing DNA Quadruplexes