Journal of the American Chemical Society

Nylon-3 copolymers that generate cell-adhesive surfaces identified by library screening.

PMID 19886604


Polymers in the nylon-3 family contain subunits derived from beta-amino acids, which are linked to one another via amide bonds. Thus, the nylon-3 backbone is homologous to the alpha-amino acid-based backbone of proteins. This molecular-level homology suggests that nylon-3 materials might be intrinsically protein-mimetic. The experiments described here explore this prospect in the context of cell adhesion, with tissue engineering as a long-range goal. We have evaluated a small library of sequence-random nylon-3 copolymers for the ability to render surfaces attractive to NIH 3T3 fibroblast adhesion and spreading. Library screening was accomplished in a high-throughput, parallel mode via attachment of the copolymers in a two-dimensional array to a modified glass surface. Significant variations in fibroblast adhesion and spreading were observed as a function of nylon-3 subunit identity and proportion. Several of the nylon-3 copolymers supported cell adhesion and morphology that was comparable, or even superior, to that achieved on positive control substrates such as tissue culture polystyrene and collagen-coated glass. Moreover, studies conducted under serum-free conditions demonstrated that specific nylon-3 derivatives supported cell adhesion independently of serum protein adsorption. Although cell adhesion was diminished in the absence of serum, particular copolymers demonstrated an ability to support substantially greater cell adhesion than any of the other conditions, including the positive controls. The nylon-3 copolymers that were most effective at promoting adhesion to a modified glass surface proved also to be effective at promoting adhesion when attached to a PEG-based hydrogel, demonstrating the potential for these copolymers to be used in tissue engineering applications.