Remarkable advances have been achieved in solution self-assembly of polypeptides from the perspective of nanostructures, mechanisms, and applications. Despite the intrinsic chirality of polypeptides, the promising generation of aqueous circularly polarized luminescence (CPL) based on their self-assembly has been rarely reported due to the weak fluorescence of most polypeptides and the indeterminate self-assembly mechanism. Here, we propose a facile strategy for achieving aqueous CPL based on the self-assembly of simple homopolypeptides modified with a terminal group featuring both twisted intramolecular charge transfer and aggregation-induced emission properties. A morphology-dependent CPL can be observed under different self-assembly conditions by altering the solvents. A nanotoroid-dispersed aqueous solution with detectable CPL can be obtained by using tetrahydrofuran as a good solvent for the self-assembly, which is attributed to the involvement of the terminal group in the chiral environment formed by the homopolypeptide chains. However, such a chiral packing mode cannot be realized in nanorods self-assembled from dioxane, resulting in an inactive CPL phenomenon. Furthermore, CPL signals can be greatly amplified by co-assembly of homopolypeptides with the achiral small molecule derived from the terminal group. This work not only provides a pathway to construct aqueous CPL-active homopolypeptide nanomaterials but also reveals a potential mechanism in the self-assembly for chiral production, transfer, and amplification in polypeptide-based nanostructures.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry