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Molecular Origin of the Elastic State of Aqueous Hyaluronic Acid

Giubertoni, Giulia, Burla, Federica, Martinez-Torres, Cristina, Dutta, Biplab, Pletikapic, Galja, Pelan, Eddie, Rezus, Yves L. A., Koenderink, Gijsje H., Bakker, Huib J.
TheJournal of physical chemistry 2019 v.123 no.14 pp. 3043-3049
atomic force microscopy, biopolymers, gelation, hyaluronic acid, hydrogels, hydrogen bonding, image analysis, infrared spectroscopy, mechanical properties, pH, sugars, synthetic products
The macroscopic mechanical properties of biological hydrogels are broadly studied and successfully mimicked in synthetic materials, but little is known about the molecular interactions that mediate these properties. Here, we use two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy to study the pH-induced gelation of hyaluronic acid, a ubiquitous biopolymer, which undergoes a transition from a viscous to an elastic state in a narrow pH range around 2.5. We find that the gelation originates from the enhanced formation of strong interchain connections, consisting of a double amide–COOH hydrogen bond and an N–D–COO– hydrogen bond on the adjacent sugars of the hyaluronan disaccharide unit. We confirm the enhanced interchain connectivity in the elastic state by atomic force microscopy imaging.