Biomimetic polymers of plant cutin: an approach from molecular modeling
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Biomimetics of materials is based on adopting and reproducing a model in nature with a well-defined functionality optimized through evolution. An example is barrier polymers that protect living tissues from the environment. The protecting layer of fruits, leaves, and non-lignified stems is the plant cuticle. The cuticle is a complex system in which the cutin is the main component. Cutin is a biopolyester made of polyhydroxylated carboxylic acids of 16 and 18 carbon atoms. The biosynthesis of cutin in plants is not well understood yet, but a direct chemical route involving the self-assembly of either molecules or molecular aggregates has been proposed. In this work, we present a combined study using experimental and simulation techniques on self-assembled layers of monomers selectively functionalized with hydroxyl groups. Our results demonstrate that the number and position of the hydroxyl groups are critical for the interaction between single molecules and the further rearrangement. Also, the presence of lateral hydroxyl groups reinforces lateral interactions and favors the bi-dimensional growth (2D), while terminal hydroxyl groups facilitate the formation of a second layer caused by head–tail interactions. The balance of 2D/3D growth is fundamental for the plant to create a protecting layer both large enough in 2D and thick enough in 3D.
KeywordsCutin Biopolyesters Atomic force microscopy Molecular dynamics simulations
Funding for this work was provided by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad under project CTQ2011-24299 and by Junta de Andalucía grant TEP-7418 under the Motriz Program.
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