The self-assembly of diaminododecane solubilised by four different stereoisomeric dendritic peptides to form gel-phase materials in toluene was investigated. The second generation dendritic peptides were based on D- and L-lysine building blocks, and each contained three chiral centres. By designing dendritic peptides in which the configurations of the chiral centres were modified, and applying them as gelator units, the assembly of stereoisomers could be investigated. In all cases, the self-assembly of gelator units resulted in macroscopic gelation. However, the degree of structuring was modulated by the stereoisomers employed, an effect which changed the morphology and macroscopic behavior of the self-assembled state. Enantiomeric (L,L,L or D,D,D) gelator units formed fibrous molecular assemblies, whilst the racemic gel (50 % L,L,L : 50 % D,D,D) formed a flat structure with a “woven” appearance. Gelator units based on L,D,D or D,L,L dendritic peptides also formed fibrous assemblies, but small-angle X-ray scattering indicated significant morphological differences were caused by the switch in chirality. Furthermore, the macroscopic stability of the gel was diminished when these peptides were compared with their L,L,L or D,D,D analogues. In this paper it is clearly shown that individual stereocentres, on the molecular level, are directly related to the helicity within the fibre. It is argued that the chirality controls the pattern of hydrogen bonding within the assembly, and hence determines the extent of fibre formation and the macroscopic gel strength.
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