Biomacromolecules, such as nucleic acids, proteins, and virus particles, are persistent molecular entities with dimensions that exceed the range of their intermolecular forces hence undergoing degradation by thermally induced bondscission upon heating. Consequently, for this type of molecule, the absence of a liquid phase can be regarded as a general phenomenon. However, certain advantageous properties usually associated with the liquid state of matter, such as processability, flowability, or molecular mobility, are highly sought-after features for biomacromolecules in a solvent-free environment. Here, we provide an overview over the design principles and synthetic pathways to obtain solvent-free liquids of biomacromolecular architectures approaching the topic from our own perspective of research. We will highlight the milestones in synthesis, including a recently developed general surfactant complexation method applicable to a large variety of biomacromolecules as well as other synthetic principles granting access to electrostatically complexed proteins and DNA. These synthetic pathways retain the function and structure of the biomacromolecules even under extreme, nonphysiological conditions at high temperatures in water-free melts challenging the existing paradigm on the role of hydration in structural biology. Under these conditions, the resulting complexes reveal their true potential for previously unthinkable applications. Moreover, these protocols open a pathway toward the assembly of anisotropic architectures, enabling the formation of solventfree biomacromolecular thermotropic liquid crystals. These ordered biomaterials exhibit vastly different mechanical properties when compared to the individual building blocks. Beyond the preparative aspects, we will shine light on the unique potential applications and technologies resulting from solvent-free biomacromolecular fluids: From charge transport in dehydrated liquids to DNA electrochromism to biocatalysis in the absence of a protein hydration shell. Moreover, solvent-free biological liquids containing viruses can be used as novel storage and process media serving as a formulation technology for the delivery of highly concentrated bioactive compounds. We are confident that this new class of hybrid biomaterials will fuel further studies and applications of biomacromolecules beyond water and other solvents and in a much broader context than just the traditional physiological conditions.
The above reseach was conducted jointly by the Changchun institute of Applied Chemistry and University of Groningen, and the results has been published in Acc. Chem. Res. 2017, 50, 1212−1221.
More information about the paper please check DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.7b00030.
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