Bioderived, chiral and stable 1-dimensional light-responsive nanostructures: Interconversion between tubules and twisted ribbons

Andrea Santilli, Andrea Lapi, Jacopo Cautela, Marco D'Abramo, Cheng Giuseppe Chen, Alessandra Del Giudice, Simona Sennato, Domagoj Belić, Victor Hugo Soto Tellini, Karin Schillén, Maria Chiara di Gregorio, Luciano Galantini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


HYPOTHESIS: Self-assembling molecular structures responding to light stimulus are appealing for applications as sensing and drug delivery. Supramolecular nanotubes have a relevant potential in nanotechnology as they can be used to encapsulate different loads like drugs, biological macromolecules, and nanomaterials. In addition, they are suitable elements for novel supracolloidal materials. Structural responses of supramolecular nanotubes to non-invasive stimuli are very much desired to enable controlled release of the encapsulated guests and to provide these recently developed new materials with an external trigger. Here, we describe the formation of well-defined, single wall tubules that interconvert into twisted ribbons upon UV-light exposure in aqueous environment. The structures are provided by self-assembly of an azobenzene substituted cholic acid, a biological surfactant belonging to the family of bile acids. The azobenzene group allows for the light responsiveness of the molecular packing. Concurrently the steroidal moieties assure both chiral features and extensive hydrophobic interactions for time and temperature resistant aggregates.

EXPERIMENTS: The molecular packing interconversion was followed by circular dichroism. Microscopy, small angle X-ray scattering and light scattering measurements demonstrated the drastic morphological variation upon irradiation. A model of the molecular arrangement within the tubular walls was suggested based on the circular dichroism spectra simulation.

FINDINGS: Innovatively, the molecular design reported in our work allows for encoding in the same light responsive system multiple desirable features (e.g. bio-origin, temperature resistance and chirality of the aggregates). Such combination of properties, never reported before for a single molecule, might be relevant for the realization of robust, stimuli-responsive bio-vectors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-734
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Nano Technology
  • Physical Chemistry


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