Hypercoiling and hydrophobically associating polymers : interfacial synthesis, surface properties and pharmaceutical applications

  • Stephen R. Tonge

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The objective of the work described was to identify and synthesize a range of
biodegradable hypercoiling or hydrophobically associating polymers to mimic natural apoproteins, such as those found in lung surfactant or plasma apolipoproteins.
Stirred interfacial polymerization was used to synthesize potentially biodegradable aromatic polyamides (Mw of 12,000-26,000) based on L-Iysine, L-Iysine ethyl ester, L-ornithine and DL-diaminopropionic acid, by reaction with isophthaloyl chloride. A similar technique was used to synthesize aliphatic polyamides based on L-Iysine ethyl ester and either adipoyl chloride or glutaryl chloride resulting in the synthesis of
poly(lysine ethyl ester adipamide) [PLETESA] or poly(lysine ethyl ester glutaramide)
(Mw of 126,000 and 26,000, respectively). PLETESA was found to be soluble in both polar and non-polar solvents and the hydrophobic/hydrophilic balance could be modified by partial saponification (66-75%) of the ethyl ester side chains.
Surface or interfacial tension/pH profiles were used to assess the conformation of
both the poly(isophthalamides) and partially saponified PLETESA in aqueous solution. The results demonstrated that a loss of charge from the polymer was accompanied by an initial fall in surface activity, followed by a rise in activity, and ultimately, by polymer precipitation. These observations were explained by a collapse of the polymer chains into non-surface active intramolecular coils, followed by a transition to an amphipathic conformation, and finally to a collapsed hydrophobe. 2-Dimensional NMR analysis of polymer conformation in polar and non-polar solvents revealed intramolecular associations between the hydrophobic groups within partially saponified PLETESA. Unsaponified PLETESA appeared to form a coiled structure in polar solvents where the ethyl ester side chains were contained within the polymer coil.
The implications of the secondary structure of PLETESA and potential biomedical
applications are discussed.

Date of AwardSept 1994
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBrian Tighe (Supervisor)


  • amino acids
  • drug delivery
  • lung surfactant
  • surface activity

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