Staff member

Edgar Fuentes Fuentes

PhD Student
Nanoscopy for Nanomedicine
+34 93 402 05 14
Staff member publications

Fuentes, E., Gerth, M., Berrocal, J. A., Matera, C., Gorostiza, P., Voets, I. K., Pujals, S., Albertazzi, L., (2020). An azobenzene-based single-component supramolecular polymer responsive to multiple stimuli in water Journal of the American Chemical Society 142, (22), 10069-10078

One of the most appealing features of supramolecular assemblies is their ability to respond to external stimuli due to their noncovalent nature. This provides the opportunity to gain control over their size, morphology, and chemical properties and is key toward some of their applications. However, the design of supramolecular systems able to respond to multiple stimuli in a controlled fashion is still challenging. Here we report the synthesis and characterization of a novel discotic molecule, which self-assembles in water into a single-component supramolecular polymer that responds to multiple independent stimuli. The building block of such an assembly is a C3-symmetric monomer, consisting of a benzene-1,3,5-tricarboxamide core conjugated to a series of natural and non-natural functional amino acids. This design allows the use of rapid and efficient solid-phase synthesis methods and the modular implementation of different functionalities. The discotic monomer incorporates a hydrophobic azobenzene moiety, an octaethylene glycol chain, and a C-terminal lysine. Each of these blocks was chosen for two reasons: to drive the self-assembly in water by a combination of H-bonding and hydrophobicity and to impart specific responsiveness. With a combination of microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, we demonstrate self-assembly in water and responsiveness to temperature, light, pH, and ionic strength. This work shows the potential to integrate independent mechanisms for controlling self-assembly in a single-component supramolecular polymer by the rational monomer design and paves the way toward the use of multiresponsive systems in water.

Fuentes, E., Bohá, Fuentes-Caparrós, A. M., Schweins, R., Draper, E. R., Adams, D. J., Pujals, S., Albertazzi, L., (2020). PAINT-ing fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl (Fmoc)-diphenylalanine hydrogels Chemistry - A European Journal 26, (44), 9869-9873

Self-assembly of fluorenylmethoxycarbonyl-protected diphenylalanine (FmocFF) in water is widely known to produce hydrogels. Typically, confocal microscopy is used to visualize such hydrogels under wet conditions, that is, without freezing or drying. However, key aspects of hydrogels like fiber diameter, network morphology and mesh size are sub-diffraction limited features and cannot be visualized effectively using this approach. In this work, we show that it is possible to image FmocFF hydrogels by Points Accumulation for Imaging in Nanoscale Topography (PAINT) in native conditions and without direct gel labelling. We demonstrate that the fiber network can be visualized with improved resolution (≈50 nm) both in 2D and 3D. Quantitative information is extracted such as mesh size and fiber diameter. This method can complement the existing characterization tools for hydrogels and provide useful information supporting the design of new materials.

Keywords: FmocFF, Hydrogels, Mesh size, PAINT, Super-resolution

Feiner-Gracia, Natalia, Buzhor, Marina, Fuentes, Edgar, Pujals, S., Amir, Roey J., Albertazzi, Lorenzo, (2017). Micellar stability in biological media dictates internalization in living cells Journal of the American Chemical Society 139, (46), 16677-16687

The dynamic nature of polymeric assemblies makes their stability in biological media a crucial parameter for their potential use as drug delivery systems in vivo. Therefore, it is essential to study and understand the behavior of self-assembled nanocarriers under conditions that will be encountered in vivo such as extreme dilutions and interactions with blood proteins and cells. Herein, using a combination of fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy, we studied four amphiphilic PEG–dendron hybrids and their self-assembled micelles in order to determine their structure–stability relations. The high molecular precision of the dendritic block enabled us to systematically tune the hydrophobicity and stability of the assembled micelles. Using micelles that change their fluorescent properties upon disassembly, we observed that serum proteins bind to and interact with the polymeric amphiphiles in both their assembled and monomeric states. These interactions strongly affected the stability and enzymatic degradation of the micelles. Finally, using spectrally resolved confocal imaging, we determined the relations between the stability of the polymeric assemblies in biological media and their cell entry. Our results highlight the important interplay between molecular structure, micellar stability, and cell internalization pathways, pinpointing the high sensitivity of stability–activity relations to minor structural changes and the crucial role that these relations play in designing effective polymeric nanostructures for biomedical applications.