Intercalation of cationic peptides within Laponite layered clay minerals in aqueous suspensions: The effect of stoichiometry and charge distance matching

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Clays can be synthesised to have specific functional properties, which have been exploited in a range of industrial processes. A key characteristic of clay is the presence of a negatively charged surface, surrounded by an oppositely charged rim. Because of that, clays are able to sequester cationic compounds resulting in the formation of ordered layered structures, known as tactoids. Recent research has highlighted the possibility of utilising clay as a drug delivery compound for cationic peptides. Here, we investigate the process of intercalation by using the highly cationic peptide deca-arginine, and the synthetic clay Laponite, in aqueous suspensions with 2.5 wt% Laponite, and varying peptide concentrations. Small-angle X-ray scattering experiments show that tactoids are formed as a function of deca-arginine concentration in the dispersion, and for an excess of peptide, i.e. above a matched charge-ratio between the peptide and clay, the growth of the tactoids is limited, resulting in tactoidal dissolution. Zeta-potential measurements confirm that the observed dissolution is caused by overcharging of the platelets. By employing coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations based on the continuum model, we are able to predict the tactoid formation, the growth, and the dissolution, in agreement with experimental results. We propose that the present simulation method can be a useful tool to tune peptide and clay characteristics to optimise and determine the extent of intercalation by cationic peptides of therapeutic interest.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Materials Chemistry


  • Cationic peptides, Clay, Deca-Arginine, Intercalation, Laponite, Molecular dynamics simulations, Nano-platelets, Small angle X-ray scattering, Tactoids, Zeta-potential
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-776
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch