We report on the biocatalytic activation of a self-assembling (unprotected) tripeptide to stabilize oil-in-water emulsions on-demand. This is achieved by the conversion of a phosphorylated precursor into a hydrogelator using alkaline phosphatase (AP) as the trigger. The rate of conversion, controlled by the amount of enzyme used, is shown to play a key role in dictating the morphology of the nanofibrous networks produced. When these amphiphilic tripeptides are used in biphasic mixtures, nanofibers are shown to self-assemble not only at the aqueous/organic interface but also throughout the surrounding buffer, thereby stabilizing the oil-in-water droplet dispersions. The use of enzymatic activation of tripeptide emulsions gives rise to enhanced control of the emulsification process because emulsions can be stabilized on-demand by simply adding AP. In addition, control over the emulsion stabilization can be achieved by taking advantage of the kinetics of dephosphorylation and consequent formation of different stabilizing nanofibrous networks at the interface and/or in the aqueous environment. This approach can be attractive for various cosmetic, food, or biomedical applications because both tunability of the tripeptide emulsion stability and on-demand stabilization of emulsions can be achieved.
Moreira, I. P., Piskorz, T. K., H. van Esch, J., Tuttle, T., & Ulijn, R. V. (2017). Biocatalytic self-assembly of tripeptide gels and emulsions. Langmuir, 33(20), 4986-4995. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.langmuir.7b00428