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Shape-shifting of vesicles induced by artificial tubular networks

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SHINEShift (Shape-shifting of vesicles induced by artificial tubular networks)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2021-06-30

Starting from the smallest unit of life, the cell, living systems are in constant motion. Cells migrate, divide and differentiate, supported by sophisticated supramolecular machinery, cellular cytoskeleton. In contrast, most artificial supramolecular systems are static. Vesicles are static structures consisting of a lipid bilayer surrounding a fluid. Yet, they are used as the most common artificial models of cell membranes, which are on the contrary dynamic, fluid structures. The SHINEShift project sought to transform vesicles into dynamic structures capable of resisting mechanical stress by employing a photo-responsive synthetic supramolecular tubules as an artificial cytoskeleton inside vesicles. In line with the overall aim, the objectives of the project were to: (i) design and synthesize organic molecules based on cyclic peptides bearing photo-responsive groups, (ii) characterize these molecules and investigate their ability to form tubular structures in a solution, (iii) encapsulate these compounds inside vesicles and (iv) observe their behavior under the influence of light. In parallel with the scientific objectives, the goal of the MSCA project was to promote the scientific training and overall career development of the Fellow in order to support her in becoming a prominent independent researcher.
Despite the unforeseen difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown and the restrictions thereafter, the project provided many important scientific results, which were presented at international conferences and public lectures, and which will be published in scientific journals in the coming period. At the same time SHINEShift had a tremendous positive effect on the Fellow’s career development and personal scientific growth. The Fellow notably developed her transferable skills through everyday transfer of knowledge within the group, as well as through several courses, seminars and lectures. In parallel, this cutting edge interdisciplinary project widened her experience in the fields of self-assembly, supramolecular chemistry and dynamic biomimetic materials.
Work was performed through 5 work packages (WPs). WP1 and WP2 comprised the research experimental work, while WP3, WP4 and WP 5 aimed to promote the development of Fellow’s transferable skills. In WP1, a modular wedge-shape design of cyclic peptides bearing photo-responsive units was first devised. Three types of building blocks were synthesized and characterized, from which photo-responsive cyclic peptides were synthesized in the end. The self-assembly behavior of cyclic peptides was investigated. Encapsulation of supramolecular polymers was performed in WP2, as well as preliminary analysis of irradiation of encapsulated systems with UV light. During the research the Fellow expanded her horizontal skills, and gained valuable experience in spectroscopy and microscopy techniques essential for investigating (dynamic) supramolecular assemblies.
In accordance with WP3, the Fellow attended the workshop where she became familiar with intellectual property rights and protection. She used the knowledge obtained in assessing the possibility for a patent application prior to dissemination. As a part of her training specified in WP4, the Fellow attended four courses focused on development of her transferable skills, two scientific seminars at the beginning of her fellowship relevant for the scientific filed of the project, and three webinars at the end of the project relevant for her future plans for grant applications. The Fellow went beyond the plans outlined in WP5 and participated in eight international scientific conferences, including two prestigious online Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Furthermore, she presented five lectures regarding her work on the project, as well as on her overall MSCA experience. The dissemination of the project continues after its official end date with four scientific papers in various stages of preparation to be published in the coming period.
SHINEShift project went beyond the state of the art in several ways. It pushed the frontiers in organic synthesis of complex cyclic peptides bearing oligo(ethylene glycol) units whose preparation and purification is not a trivial task. Furthermore, it gave insight into the possibilities of self-assembly of these structures and encapsulation of supramolecular polymers in confined micro-scale compartments – vesicles. This will have a profound effect and open new avenues in the fields of biomimetic systems, materials science and supramolecular chemistry.
On the personal level, this Fellowship had a tremendous impact on Fellow’s career development, both in the improvement of her horizontal skills, and in promoting her transferable skills. It also had a great positive effect on the host group due to Fellow’s broad experimental experience. However, the greatest impact was her experience with high-risk high-gain research in an international multidisciplinary group which pushed her forward to become an independent researcher capable for applying for other scientific funding opportunities in the future.
SHINEShift aim