Atomic structures of naphthalene dipeptide micelles unravel mechanisms of assembly and gelation.

Ravi R Sonani, Simona Bianco, Bart Dietrich, James Doutch, Emily R Draper, Dave J Adams, Edward H Egelman


Peptide-based biopolymers have gained increasing attention due to their versatile applications. A naphthalene dipeptide (2NapFF) can form chirality-dependent tubular micelles, leading to supramolecular gels. The precise molecular arrangement within these micelles and the mechanism governing gelation have remained enigmatic. We determined, at near-atomic resolution, cryoelectron microscopy structures of the 2NapFF micelles LL-tube and LD-tube, generated by the stereoisomers (l,l)-2NapFF and (l,d)-2NapFF, respectively. The structures reveal that the fundamental packing of dipeptides is driven by the systematic π-π stacking of aromatic rings and that same-charge repulsion between the carbonyl groups is responsible for the stiffness of both tubes. The structural analysis elucidates how a single residue's altered chirality gives rise to markedly distinct tubular structures and sheds light on the mechanisms underlying the pH-dependent gelation of LL- and LD-tubes. The understanding of dipeptide packing and gelation mechanisms provides insights for the rational design of 2NapFF derivatives, enabling the modulation of micellar dimensions.