Simulation of self-assembly of polyzwitterions into vesicles

JP Mahalik and M Muthukumar, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 145, 074907 (2016).

DOI: 10.1063/1.4960774

Using the Langevin dynamics method and a coarse-grained model, we have studied the formation of vesicles by hydrophobic polymers consisting of periodically placed zwitterion side groups in dilute salt-free aqueous solutions. The zwitterions, being permanent charge dipoles, provide long-range electrostatic correlations which are interfered by the conformational entropy of the polymer. Our simulations are geared towards gaining conceptual understanding in these correlated dipolar systems, where theoretical calculations are at present formidable. A competition between hydrophobic interactions and dipole-dipole interactions leads to a series of self-assembled structures. As the spacing d between the successive zwitterion side groups decreases, single chains undergo globule -> disk -> worm-like structures. We have calculated the Flory-Huggins chi parameter for these systems in terms of d and monitored the radius of gyration, hydrodynamic radius, spatial correlations among hydrophobic and dipole monomers, and dipole-dipole orientational correlation functions. During the subsequent stages of self-assembly, these structures lead to larger globules and vesicles as d is decreased up to a threshold value, below which no large scale morphology forms. The vesicles form via a polynucleation mechanism whereby disk-like structures form first, followed by their subsequent merger. Published by AIP Publishing.

Return to Publications page