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Staff member

César Rodriguez-Emmenegger
Group Leader / ICREA Research Professor
+34 934021703 (21703)
crodriguezibecbarcelona.eu
Staff member publications

Pala, M, El Khannaji, H, Garay-Sarmiento, M, Ronda, JC, Cadiz, V, Galia, M, Percec, V, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, Lligadas, G, (2022). A green solvent-to-polymer upgrading approach to water-soluble LCST poly(N-substituted lactamide acrylate)s Green Chemistry 21, 8314-8323

We report a green solvent-to-polymer upgrading transformation of chemicals of the lactic acid portfolio into water-soluble lower critical solution temperature (LCST)-type acrylic polymers. Aqueous Cu(0)-mediated living radical polymerization (SET-LRP) was utilized for the rapid synthesis of N-substituted lactamide-type homo and random acrylic copolymers under mild conditions. A particularly unique aspect of this work is that the water-soluble monomers and the SET-LRP initiator used to produce the corresponding polymers were synthesized from biorenewable and non-toxic solvents, namely natural ethyl lactate and BASF's Agnique (R) AMD 3L (N,N-dimethyl lactamide, DML). The pre-disproportionation of Cu(I) Br in the presence of tris[2-(dimethylamino)ethyl]amine (Me6TREN) in water generated nascent Cu(0) and Cu(II) complexes that facilitated the fast polymerization of N-tetrahydrofurfuryl lactamide and N,N-dimethyl lactamide acrylate monomers (THFLA and DMLA, respectively) up to near-quantitative conversion with excellent control over molecular weight (5000 < M-n < 83 000) and dispersity (1.05 < D < 1.16). Interestingly, poly(THFLA) showed a degree of polymerization and concentration dependent LCST behavior, which can be fine-tuned (T-cp = 12-62 degrees C) through random copolymerization with the more hydrophilic DMLA monomer. Finally, covalent cross-linking of these polymers resulted in a new family of thermo-responsive hydrogels with excellent biocompatibility and tunable swelling and LCST transition. These illustrate the versatility of these neoteric green polymers in the preparation of smart and biocompatible soft materials.

JTD Keywords: Acid, Ethyl lactate, Living radical polymerization, Monomers, Pnipam, Reductive amination, Ruthenium nanoparticles, Set-lrp, Single, Thermoresponsive polymers


Joseph A, Wagner AM, Garay-Sarmiento M, Aleksanyan M, Haraszti T, Söder D, Georgiev VN, Dimova R, Percec V, Rodriguez-Emmenegger C, (2022). Zwitterionic Dendrimersomes: A Closer Xenobiotic Mimic of Cell Membranes Advanced Materials , e2206288

Building functional mimics of cell membranes is an important task toward the development of synthetic cells. So far, lipid and amphiphilic block copolymers are the most widely used amphiphiles with the bilayers by the former lacking stability while membranes by the latter are typically characterized by very slow dynamics. Herein, we introduce a new type of Janus dendrimer containing a zwitterionic phosphocholine hydrophilic headgroup (JDPC ) and a 3,5-substituted dihydrobenzoate-based hydrophobic dendron. JDPC self-assembles in water into zwitterionic dendrimersomes (z-DSs) that faithfully recapitulate the cell membrane in thickness, flexibility, and fluidity, while being resilient to harsh conditions and displaying faster pore closing dynamics in the event of membrane rupture. This enables the fabrication of hybrid DSs with components of natural membranes, including pore-forming peptides, structure-directing lipids, and glycans to create raft-like domains or onion vesicles. Moreover, z-DSs can be used to create active synthetic cells with life-like features that mimic vesicle fusion and motility as well as environmental sensing. Despite their fully synthetic nature, z-DSs are minimal cell mimics that can integrate and interact with living matter with the programmability to imitate life-like features and beyond. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: Biosensor, Bottom-up synthetic biology, Hybrid vesicles, Synthetic cells, Vesicle fusion, Vesicle motility, Zwitterionic dendrimersomes


Whenever an artificial surface comes into contact with blood, proteins are rapidly adsorbed onto its surface. This phenomenon, termed fouling, is then followed by a series of undesired reactions involving activation of complement or the coagulation cascade and adhesion of leukocytes and platelets leading to thrombus formation. Thus, considerable efforts are directed towards the preparation of fouling-resistant surfaces with the best possible hemocompatibility. Herein, a comprehensive hemocompatibility study after heparinized blood contact with seven polymer brushes prepared by surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization is reported. The resistance to fouling is quantified and thrombus formation and deposition of blood cellular components on the coatings are analyzed. Moreover, identification of the remaining adsorbed proteins is performed via mass spectroscopy to elucidate their influence on the surface hemocompatibility. Compared with an unmodified glass surface, the grafting of polymer brushes minimizes the adhesion of platelets and leukocytes and prevents the thrombus formation. The fouling from undiluted blood plasma is reduced by up to 99%. Most of the identified proteins are connected with the initial events of foreign body reaction towards biomaterial (coagulation cascade proteins, complement component, and inflammatory proteins). In addition, several proteins that are not previously linked with blood-biomaterial interaction are presented and discussed.

JTD Keywords: biosensor, blood-plasma, coagulation, coatings, compatibility, glycoprotein, hemocompatibility, identification, methacrylate), ms identification, polymer brushes, protein adsorption, surface-chemistry, Antifouling surfaces, High-density-lipoprotein


Wagner, AM, Eto, H, Joseph, A, Kohyama, S, Haraszti, T, Zamora, RA, Vorobii, M, Giannotti, MI, Schwille, P, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, C, (2022). Dendrimersome Synthetic Cells Harbor Cell Division Machinery of Bacteria Advanced Materials 34, 2202364

The integration of active cell machinery with synthetic building blocks is the bridge toward developing synthetic cells with biological functions and beyond. Self-replication is one of the most important tasks of living systems, and various complex machineries exist to execute it. In Escherichia coli, a contractile division ring is positioned to mid-cell by concentration oscillations of self-organizing proteins (MinCDE), where it severs membrane and cell wall. So far, the reconstitution of any cell division machinery has exclusively been tied to liposomes. Here, the reconstitution of a rudimentary bacterial divisome in fully synthetic bicomponent dendrimersomes is shown. By tuning the membrane composition, the interaction of biological machinery with synthetic membranes can be tailored to reproduce its dynamic behavior. This constitutes an important breakthrough in the assembly of synthetic cells with biological elements, as tuning of membrane-divisome interactions is the key to engineering emergent biological behavior from the bottom-up.

JTD Keywords: Bacterial cell division, Bottom-up synthetic biology, Dendrimersomes, Dynamic min patterns, Dynamics, Ftsz assembly, Ftsz filaments, Mind, Organization, Pole oscillation, Polymersome membranes, Proteins, Rapid pole, Synthetic cells, Vesicles


Yang, Bingquan, Wang, Yangxin, Vorobii, Mariia, Sauter, Eric, Koenig, Meike, Kumar, Ravi, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, Cesar, Hirtz, Michael, (2022). Evaluation of Dibenzocyclooctyne and Bicyclononyne Click Reaction on Azido-Functionalized Antifouling Polymer Brushes via Microspotting Advanced Materials Interfaces 9, 2102325

Wagner, Anna M., Quandt, Jonas, Söder, Dominik, Garay-Sarmiento, Manuela, Joseph, Anton, Petrovskii, Vladislav S., Witzdam, Lena, Hammoor, Thomas, Steitz, Philipp, Haraszti, Tamás, Potemkin, Igor I., Kostina, Nina Yu., Herrmann, Andreas, Rodriguez-Emmenegger, Cesar, (2022). Ionic Combisomes: A New Class of Biomimetic Vesicles to Fuse with Life Advanced Science 9, 2200617

The construction of biomembranes that faithfully capture the properties and dynamic functions of cell membranes remains a challenge in the development of synthetic cells and their application. Here a new concept for synthetic cell membranes based on the self-assembly of amphiphilic comb polymers into vesicles, termed ionic combisomes (i-combisomes) is introduced. These combs consist of a polyzwitterionic backbone to which hydrophobic tails are linked by electrostatic interactions. Using a range of microscopies and molecular simulations, the self-assembly of a library of combs in water is screened. It is discovered that the hydrophobic tails form the membrane's core and force the backbone into a rod conformation with nematic-like ordering confined to the interface with water. This particular organization resulted in membranes that combine the stability of classic polymersomes with the biomimetic thickness, flexibility, and lateral mobility of liposomes. Such unparalleled matching of biophysical properties and the ability to locally reconfigure the molecular topology of its constituents enable the harboring of functional components of natural membranes and fusion with living bacteria to “hijack” their periphery. This provides an almost inexhaustible palette to design the chemical and biological makeup of the i-combisomes membrane resulting in a powerful platform for fundamental studies and technological applications.

JTD