Quantitative study on the antifreeze protein mimetic ice growth inhibition properties of poly(ampholytes) derived from vinyl-based polymers

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Daniel E. Mitchell, Mary Lilliman, Sebastian G. Spain and Matthew I. Gibson; Biomater. Sci., 2014, 2, 1781-1795. [DOI] [PDF]


Antifreeze (glyco) proteins (AF(G)Ps) from the blood of polar fish species are extremely potent ice recrystallization inhibitors (IRI), but are difficult to synthesise or extract from natural sources. Despite this challenge, materials which display IRI are appealing due to their ability to enhance cellular cryopreservation, for applications including regenerative and transplantation medicine. Here, poly(ampholytes), which contain a mixture of cationic and anionic side chains are quantitatively evaluated for their IRI activity. Poly(aminoethyl methacrylate), obtained by RAFT polymerization, is functionalised with succinic anhydride to generate the poly(ampholytes). The charge balance of the side chains is shown to be crucial, with only 50 : 50 mixtures having strong IRI activity, which also scales with molecular weight. This is the first example of a non-hydroxylated synthetic polymer with quantifiable IRI activity and raises questions about the mechanism of IRI, as the polymers have no obvious ice-binding motif. The ampholytic structure is shown to be transferable to carbohydrate-centred polymers with activity retained, but poly(betaines) are shown to be inactive.