Portrait of Dr Christopher Serpell

Dr Christopher Serpell

Senior Lecturer in Chemistry
Research Excellence Framework (REF) Co-ordinator for Chemistry


Dr Chris Serpell completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford, graduating in 2005 with a first class MChem after a final year project with Professor Paul Beer. After a year teaching physical and analytical chemistry at the University of Brighton, he returned to Paul Beer’s group for DPhil studies (co-funded and supervised by Johnson Matthey) which encompassed anion co-ordination, halogen bonding, crystallography, and metal nanoparticles. Chris was a finalist in the Reaxys PhD Prize, and was awarded EPSRC PhD+ funding for extension projects. 

In 2011 he moved to McGill University in Montreal as a Tomlinson, and then Banting Fellow in Professor Hanadi Sleiman’s group, and worked at the interface of DNA, peptide, and polymer nanotechnologies. Chris returned to the UK in 2014, taking up a Marie Curie Experienced Researcher Fellowship in Professor Ben Davis’s group at Oxford as part of an Innovative Training Network developing the use of filled carbon nanotubes in medicine and biology. Chris was appointed Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Kent in July 2015 and is a member of the Functional Materials Group in the School of Physical Sciences.

Research interests

The Serpell Group works at the interfaces of biomolecular and synthetic supramolecular chemistry, and nanotechnology. Their overarching aim is to exploit the breadth and depth of these fields, forging new links and generating new chemical structures, functions, and technologies.

Sequence-defined polymers

The secrets of life are written in the sequences of polymers: nucleic acids and proteins. Among their attributes, these biopolymers are capable of storing vast quantities of information, catalysing reactions to the diffusion limit with absolute selectivity, creating materials of exceptional strength and resilience, and imparting microscopic and macroscopic motion. In all these cases, it is supramolecular chemistry – non-covalent interactions such as hydrogen bonding, π-stacking, electrostatics, and the hydrophobic effect – that acts as to translate monomer sequence into function and activity.
Dr Serpell and his colleagues are recapitulating these concepts using synthetic motifs by applying solid-phase synthesis in a new way. The non-natural sequence-defined polymers they are generating are capable of programmed folding, molecular recognition, and biological function. They use the automated phosphoramidite synthesis used typically for DNA to produce highly modified oligonucleotides, DNA-peptide hybrids, and entirely non-nucleosidic sequence-defined polymers, for fundamentals of self-assembly, and applications in therapy, sensing, and catalysis via discovery of sequences with high affinity. The Serpell Group collaborates with industrial aptamer scientists and a number of groups in the Kent School of Biosciences on this topic.

Drug delivery: Polymer-as-payload

Nanotechnology holds immense promise for improving the efficacy of known drugs by providing temporal and spatial control over release of the active compound. However, most systems that do this contain far more polymer than drug, and this is a problem when a high local dose is needed – for example, in the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for chemoprevention of certain cancers. 

The Serpell Group is making polymers out of the drugs themselves, such that the polymers can be formulated into targeted nanoparticles, which will then degrade to release the drug at a controllable rate, at the proper therapeutic site (eg the cancer). A recent example of this is the creation of degradable polymer nanoparticles built out of salicylic acid. The group is expanding this approach to other drugs, and developing collaborations with Malaysia to use therapeutic phytochemicals in this regard.

Biomolecular manipulation

Despite being able to perform tasks well beyond the current capabilities of synthetic chemistry, biomolecules are not magic. Proteins, peptides, lipids, sugars, and nucleic acids all display chemical ‘handles’ which can be used to manipulate their behaviour. Chris and his team are exploiting covalent and supramolecular motifs to provide new ways to detect and purify biomolecules, and translate their unique properties to novel functional materials. A recent example of this is the use of gold nanoparticles as adjuncts in electrophoretic analysis of sulphurous biomolecules.


Showing 50 of 59 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.


  • Biagini, S., Serpell, C., birchall, L., Shehata, S., McCarthy, S., Shepherd, H. and Clark, E. (2020). Supramolecular behaviour and fluorescence of rhodamine-functionalised ROMP polymers. Polymer Chemistry [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/D0PY00799D.
    Inherently fluorescent polymers are of interest in materials and medicine. We report a ring-opening metathesis polymerisation (ROMP) platform for creation of amphiphilic block copolymers in which one block is formed from rhodamine B-containing monomers. The polymers self-assemble into well-defined micelles which are able to sequester molecular dyes and further interact with them by energy transfer. Despite incorporating a cationic dye known to bind DNA, the polymer micelles do not interact with DNA, indicating that they are potentially safe for use in bioanalytical applications.
  • Ahmad, B., Serpell, C., Lim Fong, I. and Wong, E. (2020). Molecular Mechanisms of Adipogenesis: The Anti-adipogenic Role of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences [Online] 7. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmolb.2020.00076.
    Obesity is now a widespread disorder, and its prevalence has become a critical concern worldwide, due to its association with common co-morbidities like cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Adipose tissue is an endocrine organ and therefore plays a critical role in the survival of an individual, but its dysfunction or excess is directly linked to obesity. The journey from multipotent mesenchymal stem cells to the formation of mature adipocytes is a well-orchestrated program which requires the expression of several genes, their transcriptional factors, and signaling intermediates from numerous pathways. Understanding all the intricacies of adipogenesis is vital if we are to counter the current epidemic of obesity because the limited understanding of these intricacies is the main barrier to the development of potent therapeutic strategies against obesity. In particular, AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) plays a crucial role in regulating adipogenesis – it is arguably the central cellular energy regulation protein of the body. Since AMPK promotes the development of brown adipose tissue over that of white adipose tissue, special attention has been given to its role in adipose tissue development in recent years. In this review, we describe the molecular mechanisms involved in adipogenesis, the role of signaling pathways and the substantial role of activated AMPK in the inhibition of adiposity, concluding with observations which will support the development of novel chemotherapies against obesity epidemics.
  • Lutter, L., Serpell, C., Tuite, M., Serpell, L. and Xue, W. (2020). Three-dimensional reconstruction of individual helical nano-filament structures from atomic force microscopy topographs. Biomolecular Concepts [Online] 11:102-115. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1515/bmc-2020-0009.
    Atomic force microscopy, AFM, is a powerful tool that can produce detailed topographical images of individual nano-structures with a high signal-to-noise ratio without the need for ensemble averaging. However, the application of AFM in structural biology has been hampered by the tip-sample convolution effect, which distorts images of nano-structures, particularly those that are of similar dimensions to the cantilever probe tips used in AFM. Here we show that the tip-sample convolution results in a feature-dependent and non-uniform distribution of image resolution on AFM topographs. We show how this effect can be utilised in structural studies of nano-sized upward convex objects such as spherical or filamentous molecular assemblies deposited on a flat surface, because it causes ‘magnification’ of such objects in AFM topographs. Subsequently, this enhancement effect is harnessed through contact-point based deconvolution of AFM topographs. Here, the application of this approach is demonstrated through the 3D reconstruction of the surface envelope of individual helical amyloid filaments without the need of cross-particle averaging using the contact- deconvoluted AFM topographs. Resolving the structural variations of individual macromolecular assemblies within inherently heterogeneous populations is paramount for mechanistic understanding of many biological phenomena such as amyloid toxicity and prion strains. The approach presented here will also facilitate the use of AFM for high-resolution structural studies and integrative structural biology analysis of single molecular assemblies.
  • Appukutti, N., Serpell, C. and Jones, J. (2020). Sequence Isomerism in Uniform Polyphosphoesters Programmes Self-Assembly and Folding. Chemical Communications [Online]:5307-5310. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/D0CC01319F.
    We have adapted solid phase phosphoramidite synthesis commonly used to make DNA, to produce two sequence-isomeric non-biological polymers which display sequence-programmed folding and self-assembly, going beyond structures which would be trivially anticipated. These findings open up possibilities for more sophisticated sequence/structure relationships using the same synthetic platform.
  • Thomas, S., Balónová, B., Cinatl, J., Wass, M., Serpell, C., Blight, B. and Michaelis, M. (2020). Thiourea and Guanidine Compounds and their Iridium Complexes in Drug-Resistant Cancer Cell Lines: Structure-Activity Relationships and Direct Luminescent Imaging. ChemMedChem [Online] 15:349-353. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/cmdc.201900591.
    Thiourea and guanidine units are found in nature, medicine, and materials. Their continued exploration in applications as diverse as cancer therapy, sensors, and electronics means that their toxicity is an important consideration. We have systematically synthesised a set of thiourea compounds and their guanidine analogues, and elucidated structure-activity relationships in terms of cellular toxicity in three ovarian cancer cell lines and their cisplatin-resistant sub-lines. We have been able to use the intrinsic luminescence of iridium complexes to visualise the effect of both structure alteration and cellular resistance mechanisms. These findings provide starting points for the development of new drugs and consideration of safety issues for novel thiourea- and guanidine-based materials.
  • Serpell, C., Cookson, J. and Beer, P. (2020). N ‐Functionalised Imidazoles as Stabilisers for Metal Nanoparticles in Catalysis and Anion Binding. ChemistryOpen [Online] 9:683-690. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/open.202000145.
    Metal nanoparticles (NPs) have physicochemical properties which are distinct from both the bulk and molecular metal species, and provide opportunities in fields such as catalysis and sensing. NPs typically require protection of their surface to impede aggregation, but these coatings can also block access to the surface which would be required to take advantage of their unusual properties. Here, we show that alkyl imidazoles can stabilise Pd, Pt, Au, and Ag NPs, and delineate the limits of their synthesis. These ligands provide an intermediate level of surface protection, for which we demonstrate proof‐of‐principle in catalysis and anion binding.
  • Vohra, M., Ahmad, B., Serpell, C., Parhar, I. and Wong, E. (2020). Murine in vitro cellular models to better understand adipogenesis and its potential applications. Differentiation [Online] 115:62-84. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.diff.2020.08.003.
    Adipogenesis has been extensively studied using in vitro models of cellular differentiation, enabling long-term regulation of fat cell metabolism in human adipose tissue (AT) material. Many studies promote the idea that manipulation of this process could potentially reduce the prevalence of obesity and its related diseases. It has now become essential to understand the molecular basis of fat cell development to tackle this pandemic disease, by identifying therapeutic targets and new biomarkers. This review explores murine cell models and their applications for study of the adipogenic differentiation process in vitro. We focus on the benefits and limitations of different cell line models to aid in interpreting data and selecting a good cell line model for successful understanding of adipose biology.
  • Balónová, B., Shepherd, H., Serpell, C. and Blight, B. (2019). IrIII as a strategy for preorganisation in H-bonded motifs. Supramolecular Chemistry [Online] 32:1-12. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10610278.2019.1649674.
    We report how four sets of thiourea-based heterodimers interact, and how incorporation of a metal centre imparts reduced degrees of rotational freedom. Through single-crystal X-ray diffraction, 1H NMR, and UV-vis analysis, the interactions of these systems are dissected and presented. These motifs are considered to be stable and desirable for supramolecular hydrogen-bonded functional materials. Interpretation of the structural design of thiourea-based ligand and its incorporation into metal complexes can contribute to the understanding of preorganised self-assembly and open new pathways in design of novel soft materials. This work also contributes to the unexplored library of hydrogen-bonded metal complexes based on iridium. As such we examined the photoluminescence of the system of general formula [Ir(C^N)2(N^S)] and the effect of hydrogen bonding on the emission properties when combined with different n-heteroacenes.
  • Taylor, E., Cavuoto, S., Beal, D., Caujolle, S., Podoleanu, A. and Serpell, C. (2019). Development of Gold–Page: Towards the Electrophoretic Analysis of Sulphurous Biopolymers. Journal of Materials Chemistry B [Online] 7:5156-5160. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/C9TB00665F.
    The prevalence; distinctive reactivity and biological significance of sulphur-based groups in proteins and nucleic acids means that analysis of sulphur is of prime importance in biochemistry, biotechnology, and medicine. We report steps in the development of a method to aid in the detection of these moieties using gold nanoparticles as adjuncts in polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (Gold-PAGE).
  • Lutter, L., Serpell, C., Tuite, M. and Xue, W. (2019). The molecular lifecycle of amyloid – Mechanism of assembly, mesoscopic organisation, polymorphism, suprastructures, and biological consequences. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Proteins and Proteomics [Online] 1867:140257. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbapap.2019.07.010.
    The formation of a diverse range of amyloid structures from normally soluble proteins and peptides is a hallmark of devastating human disorders as well as biological functions. The current molecular understanding of the amyloid lifecycle reveals four processes central to their growth and propagation: primary nucleation, elongation, secondary nucleation and division. However, these processes result in a wide range of cross-β packing and filament arrangements, including diverse assemblies formed from identical monomeric precursors with the same amino acid sequences. Here, we review current structural and mechanistic understanding of amyloid self-assembly, and discuss how mesoscopic, i.e. micrometre to nanometre, organisation of amyloid give rise to suprastructural features that may be the key link between the polymorphic amyloid structures and the biological response they elicit. A greater understanding of the mechanisms governing suprastructure formation will guide future strategies to combat amyloid associated disorders and to use and control the amyloid quaternary structure in synthetic biology and materials applications.
  • Young, A., Sauer, M., Rubio, G., Sato, A., Foelske, A., Serpell, C., Chin, J. and Reithofer, M. (2019). One-step synthesis and XPS investigations of chiral NHC–Au(0)/Au(i) nanoparticles. Nanoscale [Online] 11:8327-8333. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/C9NR00905A.
    Although N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) have been demonstrated as suitable ligands for the stabilisation of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) through a variety of methods, the manner in which such AuNPs form is yet to be fully elucidated. We report a simple and fast one-step synthesis of uniform chiral (L/D)-histidin-2-ylidene stabilised gold nanoparticles using the organometallic Au(I) complex as a well defined starting material. The resulting nanoparticles have an average size of 2.35 ± 0.43 nm for the L analog whereas an average size of 2.25 ± 0.39 nm was found for the D analog. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analyses reveal the presence of Au(I) and Au(0) in all NHC stabilised AuNPs. In contrast, measured X-ray photoelectron spectra of dodecanethiol protected gold nanoparticles showed only the presence of a Au(0) species. This observation leads us to postulate that AuNPs synthesised from organometallic NHC–Au(I) complexes exhibit a monolayer of Au(I) surrounding a Au(0) core. This work highlights the importance of synthetic method choice for NHC-stabilized AuNPs, as this could determine Au oxidation states and resulting AuNP properties such as catalytic activities and stabilities.
  • Ahmad, B., Serpell, C., Lim, I. and Wong, E. (2019). Adipogenesis, Role of Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) and Use of Plants Products in Combating Obesity. [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.20944/preprints201907.0040.v1.
    The increasingly widespread emergence of obesity has become a matter of critical concern around the world due to its association with common morbidities including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Over-nutrition and the sedentary lifestyle are considered as the most significant causes of obesity: appropriate lifestyle and behavior interventions are the corner stones of successful weight loss, but to maintain such a lifestyle is highly challenging. There is therefore an urgent need to develop innovative non- or minimally-toxic means to combat obesity. Accordingly, ample natural products from plants (either as crude extracts or purified phytochemicals) have been scrutinized for their anti-obesogenic properties because they are believed to be non-toxic and cost-effective, and frequently well-accepted by patients because of their traditional use. In this review, we will discuss adipose tissue and adipogenesis, signaling pathways involved in the regulation of adipogenesis, role of energy sensor protein of the body AMPK, and recently reported plant products in the management of obesity. We will provide a common platform for understanding obesity, and a possible mechanism of action for anti-obesogenic plant products through activated AMPK, which will be helpful in the scientific development of traditional herbal medicine.
  • De Bo, G., Kitchen, J. and Serpell, C. (2018). Emerging investigators in the UK – Editorial. Supramolecular Chemistry [Online] 30:731. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10610278.2018.1475606.
  • Degradable Polymers and Nanoparticles Built from Salicylic Acid (2018). Macromolecular Rapid Communications [Online] 39. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/marc.201800182.
    As more evidence emerges supporting the possibility that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, especially aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid), might have a role in the prevention and management in certain types of cancer, there have been several attempts to fabricate salicylic acid-based polymers that can be employed in the targeted therapy of tumours. The primary disadvantage so far has been in use of non-therapeutic polymeric backbones that constitute the majority of the therapeutic particle’s size. The focus of this research is the creation of a biodegradable polymer consisting only of salicylic acid, and its use as the main building block in targeted nanotherapeutics that would consequently provide both high local dose and sustained release of the active moiety. In this work, we demonstrate the synthesis and degradation of polysalicylates, and modulation of their size and hydrolytic stability through formation of nanostructures.
  • Appukutti, N. and Serpell, C. (2018). High-definition polyphosphoesters: between nucleic acids and plastics. Polymer Chemistry [Online] 9:2210-2216. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/C8PY00251G.
    Polyphosphoesters are common to both genetics and cutting-edge polymer science. This review seeks to reframe current conceptions of the boundaries of nucleic acid and polymer chemistry, showing that vital ‘stepping stones’ are now in place, allowing us to make a journey through chemical space between DNA and the synthetic polyphosphoesters. These liminal classes of macromolecule address vital questions about sequence control in polymers, single polymer chain folding, programmed self-assembly, nanoscale photophysics, and chemical data storage. In taking this path, we will impinge upon biochemistry, medicine, photophysics, supramolecular chemistry, nanotechnology, information technology and materials science. The synthetic methods we already have in hand have only just begun to show their promise in all these fields.
  • Young, A., Serpell, C., Chin, J. and Reithofer, M. (2017). Optically active histidin-2-ylidene stabilised gold nanoparticles. Chemical Communications [Online] 53:12426-12429. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C7CC07602A.
    Drawing from the natural amino acid chiral pool, L and D histidines were utilized as chiral NHC ligands in the synthesis of NHC-stabilized chiroptical gold nanoparticles. Centrifugal size selection afforded monodisperse gold nanoparticles which display mirrored signals in CD spectroscopy.
  • Davis, B. and Serpell, C. (2017). Nanotechnology and Biotechnology: Two Way Traffic. Editorial Overview: Nanotechnology and biotechnology: Two way traffic [Online] 46:vi-viii. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copbio.2017.06.002.
    Editorial overview for special issue of Current Opinion in Biotechnology on Nanobiotechnology
  • Serpell, C., Rutte, R., Geraki, K., Pach, E., Martincic, M., Kierkowicz, M., De Munari, S., Wals, K., Raj, R., Ballesteros, B., Tobias, G., Anthony, D. and Davis, B. (2016). Carbon nanotubes allow capture of krypton, barium and lead for multichannel biological X-ray fluorescence imaging. Nature Communications [Online] 7:13118. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms13118.
    The desire to study biology in situ has been aided by many imaging techniques. Among these, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) mapping permits observation of elemental distributions in a multichannel manner. However, XRF imaging is underused, in part, because of the difficulty in interpreting maps without an underlying cellular ‘blueprint’; this could be supplied using contrast agents. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can be filled with a wide range of inorganic materials, and thus can be used as ‘contrast agents’ if biologically absent elements are encapsulated. Here we show that sealed single-walled CNTs filled with lead, barium and even krypton can be produced, and externally decorated with peptides to provide affinity for sub-cellular targets. The agents are able to highlight specific organelles in multiplexed XRF mapping, and are, in principle, a general and versatile tool for this, and other modes of biological imaging.
  • Serpell, C., Kostarelos, K. and Davis, B. (2016). Can Carbon Nanotubes Deliver on their Promise in Biology? Harnessing Unique Properties for Unparalleled Applications. ACS Central Science [Online] 2:190-200. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acscentsci.6b00005.
  • Chidchob, P., Edwardson, T., Serpell, C. and Sleiman, H. (2016). Synergy of Two Assembly Languages in DNA Nanostructures: Self-Assembly of Sequence-Defined Polymers on DNA Cages. Journal of the American Chemical Society [Online] 138:4416-4425. Available at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jacs.5b12953.
    DNA base-pairing is the central interaction in DNA assembly. However, this simple four-letter (A–T and G–C) language makes it difficult to create complex structures without using a large number of DNA strands of different sequences. Inspired by protein folding, we introduce hydrophobic interactions to expand the assembly language of DNA nanotechnology. To achieve this, DNA cages of different geometries are combined with sequence-defined polymers containing long alkyl and oligoethylene glycol repeat units. Anisotropic decoration of hydrophobic polymers on one face of the cage leads to hydrophobically driven formation of quantized aggregates of DNA cages, where polymer length determines the cage aggregation number. Hydrophobic chains decorated on both faces of the cage can undergo an intrascaffold “handshake” to generate DNA-micelle cages, which have increased structural stability and assembly cooperativity, and can encapsulate small molecules. The polymer sequence order can control the interaction between hydrophobic blocks, leading to unprecedented “doughnut-shaped” DNA cage-ring structures. We thus demonstrate that new structural and functional modes in DNA nanostructures can emerge from the synergy of two interactions, providing an attractive approach to develop protein-inspired assembly modules in DNA nanotechnology.
  • Avakyan, N., Greschner, A., Aldaye, F., Serpell, C., Toader, V., Petitjean, A. and Sleiman, H. (2016). Reprogramming the assembly of unmodified DNA with a small molecule. Nature Chemistry [Online] 8:368-376. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2451.
    The ability of DNA to store and encode information arises from base pairing of the four-letter nucleobase code to form a double helix. Expanding this DNA ‘alphabet’ by synthetic incorporation of new bases can introduce new functionalities and enable the formation of novel nucleic acid structures. However, reprogramming the self-assembly of existing nucleobases presents an alternative route to expand the structural space and functionality of nucleic acids. Here we report the discovery that a small molecule, cyanuric acid, with three thymine-like faces reprogrammes the assembly of unmodified poly(adenine) (poly(A)) into stable, long and abundant fibres with a unique internal structure. Poly(A) DNA, RNA and peptide nucleic acid all form these assemblies. Our studies are consistent with the association of adenine and cyanuric acid units into a hexameric rosette, which brings together poly(A) triplexes with a subsequent cooperative polymerization. Fundamentally, this study shows that small hydrogen-bonding molecules can be used to induce the assembly of nucleic acids in water, which leads to new structures from inexpensive and readily available materials.
  • Transfer of molecular recognition information from DNA nanostructures to gold nanoparticles (2016). Nature Chemistry [Online] 8:162-170. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NCHEM.2420.
    DNA nanotechnology offers unparalleled precision and programmability for the bottom-up organization of materials. This approach relies on pre-assembling a DNA scaffold, typically containing hundreds of different strands, and using it to position functional components. A particularly attractive strategy is to employ DNA nanostructures not as permanent
    scaffolds, but as transient, reusable templates to transfer essential information to other materials. To our knowledge, this approach, akin to top-down lithography, has not been examined. Here we report a molecular printing strategy that chemically transfers a discrete pattern of DNA strands from a three-dimensional DNA structure to a gold nanoparticle.
    We show that the particles inherit the DNA sequence configuration encoded in the parent template with high fidelity. This provides control over the number of DNA strands and their relative placement, directionality and sequence asymmetry. Importantly, the nanoparticles produced exhibit the site-specific addressability of DNA nanostructures, and are promising components for energy, information and biomedical applications.
  • Langton, M., Serpell, C. and Beer, P. (2015). Anion Recognition in Water: Recent Advances from a Supramolecular and Macromolecular Perspective. Angewandte Chemie International Edition [Online]:1974-1987. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1002/anie.201506589.
    The recognition of anions in water remains a key challenge in modern supramolecular chemistry, and is essential if proposed applications in biological, medical, and environmental arenas that typically require aqueous conditions are to be achieved. However, synthetic anion receptors that operate in water have, in general, been the exception rather than the norm to date. Nevertheless, a significant step change towards routinely conducting anion recognition in water has been achieved in the past few years, and this Review highlights these approaches, with particular focus on controlling and using the hydrophobic effect, as well as more exotic interactions such as C?H hydrogen bonding and halogen bonding. We also look beyond the field of small-molecule recognition into the macromolecular domain, covering recent advances in anion recognition based on biomolecules, polymers, and nanoparticles.
  • Castor, K., Metera, K., Tefashe, U., Serpell, C., Mauzeroll, J. and Sleiman, H. (2015). Cyclometalated Iridium(III) Imidazole Phenanthroline Complexes as Luminescent and Electrochemiluminescent G-Quadruplex DNA Binders. Inorganic Chemistry [Online] 54:6958-6967. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1021/acs.inorgchem.5b00921.
    Six cyclometalated iridium(III) phenanthroimidazole complexes with different modifications to the imidazole phenanthroline ligand exhibit enhanced luminescence when bound to guanine (G-) quadruplex DNA sequences. The complexes bind with low micromolar affinity to human telomeric and c-myc sequences in a 1:1 complex:quadruplex stoichiometry. Due to the luminescence enhancement upon binding to G-quadruplex DNA, the complexes can be used as selective quadruplex indicators. In addition, the electrogenerated chemiluminescence of all complexes increases in the presence of specific G-quadruplex sequences, demonstrating potential for the development of an ECL-based G-quadruplex assay.
  • Serpell, C., Edwardson, T., Chidchob, P., Carneiro, K. and Sleiman, H. (2014). Precision polymers and 3D DNA nanostructures: Emergent assemblies from new parameter space. Journal of the American Chemical Society [Online] 136. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja509192n.
    Polymer self-assembly and DNA nanotechnology have both proved to be powerful nanoscale techniques. To date, most attempts to merge the fields have been limited to placing linear DNA segments within a polydisperse block copolymer. Here we show that, by using hydrophobic polymers of a precisely predetermined length conjugated to DNA strands, and addressable 3D DNA prisms, we are able to effect the formation of unprecedented monodisperse quantized superstructures. The structure and properties of larger micelles-of-prisms were probed in depth, revealing their ability to participate in controlled release of their constituent nanostructures, and template light-harvesting energy transfer cascades, mediated through both the addressability of DNA and the controlled aggregation of the polymers. © 2014 American Chemical Society.
  • Edwardson, T., Carneiro, K., Serpell, C. and Sleiman, H. (2014). An efficient and modular route to sequence-defined polymers appended to DNA. Angewandte Chemie International Edition [Online] 53:4567-4571. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.201310937.
    Inspired by biological polymers, sequence-controlled synthetic polymers are highly promising materials that integrate the robustness of synthetic systems with the information-derived activity of biological counterparts. Polymer-biopolymer conjugates are often targeted to achieve this union; however, their synthesis remains challenging. We report a stepwise solid-phase approach for the generation of completely monodisperse and sequence-defined DNA-polymer conjugates using readily available reagents. These polymeric modifications to DNA display self-assembly and encapsulation behavior - as evidenced by HPLC, dynamic light scattering, and fluorescence studies - which is highly dependent on sequence order. The method is general and has the potential to make DNA-polymer conjugates and sequence-defined polymers widely available. Bilingual: A stepwise solid-phase synthesis approach provides easy access to sequence-controlled polymers attached to DNA. Polymers with the same molecular composition but different monomer patterns exhibit different amphiphilic self-assembly. The DNA component still retains base-pairing fidelity, and thus one molecule "speaks" two orthogonal and programmable assembly languages. © 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
  • Serpell, C., Bar?óg, M., Basu, K., Fakhoury, J., Bazzi, H. and Sleiman, H. (2014). Nucleobase peptide amphiphiles. Materials Horizons [Online] 1:348-354. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1039/C3MH00154G.
    A new class of peptide materials is introduced, integrating orthogonal aspects of peptide, nucleoside, and amphiphile chemistry. In solution, species such as rod-like or helical micelles are formed, which can lead to nanoribbons under lateral or longitudinal hierarchical growth regimes. Gelation of a wide range of solvents can be induced, including water and aqueous buffer, providing new avenues for nucleobase-specific electrophoresis, oligonucleotide delivery and bioactive cell growth media.
  • White, N., Serpell, C. and Beer, P. (2014). Structural study of triazole and amide containing anion-templated pseudorotaxanes. Crystal Growth and Design [Online] 14:3472-3479. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84903741017&partnerID=40&md5=40028794dcee3341f31d8abe35a9a312.
    The ability of a range of halides and oxoanions to template pseudorotaxane formation between an isophthalamide containing macrocycle and either bis-triazole pyridinium or bis-amide pyridinium threading components was investigated. Solution 1H NMR experiments reveal that all of the studied anions (Cl-, Br-, I-, NO 3 -, HSO4 -, OAc-, and BzO-) can template interpenetrated assemblies. The solid-state structures of nine of the pseudorotaxanes were determined by single crystal X-ray structural analysis. In the solid state, the oxoanions nitrate, acetate and benzoate display much stronger hydrogen bonding with the macrocycle and threading components than the halide anions. Conversely, aromatic donor-acceptor contacts between the macrocycle and thread are significantly longer in the oxoanion templated pseudorotaxanes, presumably due to the greater steric demands of these larger templates. © 2014 American Chemical Society.
  • Site-specific positioning of dendritic alkyl chains on DNA cages enables their geometry-dependent self-assembly (2013). Nature Chemistry [Online] 5:868-875. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84884852595&partnerID=40&md5=629ca8d7a0b11f95f3fcaad7f1a64d54.
    Nature uses a combination of non-covalent interactions to create a hierarchy of complex systems from simple building blocks. One example is the selective association of the hydrophobic side chains that are a strong determinant of protein organization. Here, we report a parallel mode of assembly in DNA nanotechnology. Dendritic alkyl-DNA conjugates are hybridized to the edges of a DNA cube. When four amphiphiles are on one face, the hydrophobic residues of two neighbouring cubes engage in an intermolecular 'handshake', resulting in a dimer. When there are eight amphiphiles (four on the top and bottom cube faces, respectively), they engage in an intramolecular 'handshake' inside the cube. This forms the first example of a monodisperse micelle within a DNA nanostructure that encapsulates small molecules and releases them by DNA recognition. Creating a three-dimensional pattern of hydrophobic patches, like side chains in proteins, can result in specific, directed association of hydrophobic domains with orthogonal interactions to DNA base-pairing. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
  • Serpell, C. and Beer, P. (2013). Intermolecular interactions in bromo-, methyl-, and cyanoimidazole derivatives. Crystal Growth and Design [Online] 13:2866-2871. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84879867574&partnerID=40&md5=3773293dc88196436ba8d88d9e74fffb.
    Materials containing bistable N-H�N hydrogen bonds, such as imidazole crystals, show promise for applications in electronics. Herein, we examine the effect of imidazole functionalization upon structural parameters relating to proton transfer, molecular rotation, and order-disorder transitions. Three different substituents are studied: methyl-, bromo-, and cyano-, resulting in steric, electronic, and supramolecular modification of the imidazole core. © 2013 American Chemical Society.
  • Caballero, A., Bennett, S., Serpell, C. and Beer, P. (2013). Iodo-imidazolium salts: Halogen bonding in crystals and anion-templated pseudorotaxanes. CrystEngComm [Online] 15:3076-3081. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84876715791&partnerID=40&md5=18eb0ae925d7fecd5198694348ec5d49.
    The 2-iodoimidazolium group is exploited in the anion-templated assembly of pseudorotaxanes with isophthalamide containing macrocycles. Crystallographic and solution-phase studies illustrate that the iodo-imidazolium motif is a potent halogen bond donor, forming the most stable interpenetrated assemblies in solution with the chloride anion template. © 2013 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Knighton, R., Sambrook, M., Vincent, J., Smith, S., Serpell, C., Cookson, J., Vickers, M. and Beer, P. (2013). Fluorogenic dansyl-ligated gold nanoparticles for the detection of sulfur mustard by displacement assay. Chemical Communications [Online] 49:2293-2295. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84875933405&partnerID=40&md5=8406307db8e618e5786e403327d21641.
    The dansyl fluorophore ligated to gold nanoparticles via imidazole and amine groups affords conjugates capable of detecting micromolar concentrations of the chemical warfare agent sulfur mustard by a fluorescence switching 'ON' displacement assay. This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Haloaurate and halopalladate imidazolium salts: Structures, properties, and use as precursors for catalytic metal nanoparticles (2013). Dalton Transactions [Online] 42:1385-1393. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84872071627&partnerID=40&md5=78f065888abcaea8bacb37edf191bd0c.
    The synthesis and characterisation of a series of new gold- and palladium-containing symmetrical imidazolium salts are described which display significant cation-dependent effects determined by the structure of the alkyl chains of the imidazolium motifs. Whereas direct reduction of the Pd salts can produce stable nanoparticles (NPs) coated by imidazolium salts, the addition of strong base to the Pd or Au salts before reduction gives stable NPs, potentially pacified by N-heterocyclic carbene units. The possibility of NP surface protection by metal-carbon bonds in these systems is investigated by spectroscopic, synthetic, and catalytic investigations, providing support for the hypothesis. Significantly, the catalytic activity of the NPs is not inhibited by the continued presence of the ligands. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2013.
  • Evans, N., Rahman, H., Leontiev, A., Greenham, N., Orlowski, G., Zeng, Q., Jacobs, R., Serpell, C., Kilah, N., Davis, J. and Beer, P. (2012). Solution and surface-confined chloride anion templated redox-active ferrocene catenanes. Chemical Science [Online] 3:1080-1089. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84858067843&partnerID=40&md5=cc589d43b27e0e4b77ef6bd733427a1c.
    The first examples of ferrocene containing catenanes, in solution and assembled on a surface are described. Chloride anion templation is exploited to synthesize redox-active [2]- and [3]-catenanes via Grubbs' ring closing metathesis, utilizing a novel ferrocene-appended isophthalamide macrocycle. X-ray crystal structures of both catenanes were determined. The ability of the [2]catenane to selectively bind and characteristically sense its chloride anion template is demonstrated by use of 1H NMR and electrochemical voltammetric techniques. Self-assembled monolayers of analogous surface-confined catenanes have been prepared on gold. In addition to being characterized by cyclic voltammetry and ellipsometry, detailed information regarding the structure of the catenane monolayers has been provided by use of angle integrated high resolution X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. This journal is © 2012 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Evans, N., Serpell, C., Christensen, K. and Beer, P. (2012). Amide and urea ferrocene-containing macrocycles capable of the electrochemical sensing of anions. European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry [Online]:939-944. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84856944204&partnerID=40&md5=60b300dc262f7f24aa9ea0ef4fc66e8b.
    Two novel macrocycles that incorporate the redox-active ferrocene motif have been synthesized. The amide-containing macrocycle is capable of sensing basic oxoanions such as dihydrogen phosphate and benzoate despite only exhibiting weak binding of these anions. The second macrocycle, which incorporates urea functionality, is capable of binding and sensing a greater range of anions with a maximum shift of the ferrocene/ferrocenium redox couple of -170 mV observed upon addition of an excess amount of dihydrogen phosphate. Two macrocycles that incorporate the redox-active ferrocene motif for anion sensing are presented. The urea macrocycle binds anions more strongly than the amide macrocycle and exhibits greater shifts of the ferrocene/ferrocenium redox couple upon the addition of anions. Copyright © 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
  • McConnell, A., Serpell, C. and Beer, P. (2012). Extending the family of heteroditopic calix[4]diquinone receptors for cooperative and ion-pair recognition. New Journal of Chemistry [Online] 36:102-112. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84255186383&partnerID=40&md5=231570e7fc274c5ea0dd85234af88c2a.
    New heteroditopic calix[4]diquinone receptors with different anion binding units and calix[4]diquinone scaffolds have been synthesised. Ion-pair binding studies using UV/visible and 1H NMR spectroscopies reveal that receptors 1, 2 and 4 are cooperative AND ion-pair receptors, which display little affinity for 'free' ions but enhanced binding of the ion-pairs NaCl, NH 4Cl and KCl. The more preorganised receptor 2 binds the ion-pairs more weakly than receptor 1. Varying the nature of the calix[4]diquinone scaffold appears to have little effect on ion-pair binding, although the calix[4]diquinone framework is more conformationally flexible than the tert-butylcalix[4]diquinone one and can be synthesised using the milder oxidant chlorine dioxide. This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
  • Serpell, C., Chall, R., Thompson, A. and Beer, P. (2011). Chloride anion triggered motion in a bis-imidazolium rotaxane. Dalton Transactions [Online] 40:12052-12055. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-79959810667&partnerID=40&md5=4ea58f0d619a911f3c2860ab8c44d2c5.
    We report the first bis-imidazolium-containing rotaxane, synthesised via anion templated self-assembly. Its co-conformation is controlled by a chloride anion recognition mechanism, thus demonstrating the viability of this protocol as a stimulus for shuttling molecular motion. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Spence, G., Serpell, C., Sardinha, J., Costa, P., FélixV. and Beer, P. (2011). Investigating the imidazolium-anion interaction through the anion-templated construction of interpenetrated and interlocked assemblies. Chemistry - A European Journal [Online] 17:12955-12966. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-80555135854&partnerID=40&md5=0be892971f4d91b77ac9b658711d9fe5.
    The interaction between imidazolium cations and coordinating anions is investigated through the anion-templated assembly of interpenetrated and interlocked structures. The orientation of the imidazolium motif with respect to anion binding, and hence the hydrogen bond donor arrangement, was varied in acyclic receptors, interpenetrated assemblies, and the first mono-imidazolium interlocked systems. Their anion recognition properties and co-conformations were studied by solution-phase 1H NMR investigations, solid-state structures, molecular dynamics simulations, and density functional theory calculations. Our findings suggest that the imidazolium-anion binding interaction is dominated by electrostatics with hydrogen-bonding contributions having weak orientational dependence. Imidazolium interpenetrated and interlocked assemblies: The interaction between imidazolium cations and coordinating anions is investigated through the anion-templated assembly of interpenetrated and interlocked structures. The orientation of the imidazolium motif with respect to anion binding was varied (see picture) and the anion recognition properties and co-conformations of these systems were studied by solution-phase, solid-state and computational investigations. Copyright © 2011 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
  • Evans, N., Serpell, C., White, N. and Beer, P. (2011). A 1,2,3,4,5-pentaphenylferrocene-stoppered rotaxane capable of electrochemical anion recognition. Chemistry - A European Journal [Online] 17:12347-12354. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-80054767604&partnerID=40&md5=df000791695ef525eae5d08edfa42568.
    The chloride anion templated synthesis of an electrochemical anion sensory interlocked host system, prepared by the integration of redox-active 1,2,3,4,5-pentaphenylferrocene stopper groups into the structure of a rotaxane capable of binding anionic guests is described. Extensive 1H NMR and electrochemical titration investigations were used to probe the anion recognition and sensing properties of the rotaxane, compared to the axle and model system components. A characteristic electrochemical response was observed for chloride binding by the rotaxane, which was attributed to the topologically constrained cavity of the interlocked host molecule. Topologically constrained host cavity for sensing chloride ions: Chloride anion templated synthesis of an electrochemical, anion sensory, interlocked host system, prepared by the integration of redox-active 1,2,3,4,5-pentaphenylferrocene stopper groups into the structure of a rotaxane (see picture), is described. A characteristic electrochemical response for chloride binding by the rotaxane is observed, attributed to the topologically constrained cavity of the interlocked molecule. Copyright © 2011 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
  • Evans, N., Allinson, E., Lankshear, M., Ng, K., Cowley, A., Serpell, C., Santos, S., Costa, P., FélixV. and Beer, P. (2011). Anion templated assembly of [2]catenanes capable of chloride anion recognition in aqueous solvent media. RSC Advances [Online] 1:995-1003. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84858026185&partnerID=40&md5=48663a9fc8ac6781c0f55968b6ff4a8a.
    An anion templated double cyclization strategy to synthesize [2]catenanes in which two identical acyclic pyridinium receptor motifs interweave around a chloride anion template is described. Ring closing metathesis (RCM) of the preorganized orthogonal precursor chloride complex facilitates the isolation of [2]catenanes in very high yields. X-ray crystal structures provide an insight of the supramolecular forces responsible for chloride anion templated efficacy and recognition. Removal of the chloride anion template generates topologically unique interlocked binding cavities for anions. 1H NMR anion binding investigations demonstrate the catenanes to be highly selective hosts for chloride in preference to more basic monocharged oxoanions. In aqueous solvent media containing 30% water, such catenanes exclusively bind chloride, under which conditions no binding of acetate or dihydrogen phosphate is observed. Molecular dynamic simulations in the solution phase are used to account for the catenanes' anion recognition properties. This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011.
  • Evans, N., Serpell, C. and Beer, P. (2011). A meta-xylenediamide macrocycle containing rotaxane anion host system constructed by a new synthetic clipping methodology. New Journal of Chemistry [Online] 35:2047-2053. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-80053368528&partnerID=40&md5=48bf8db87ccf8aa797a2970d72e369cb.
    A novel rotaxane containing a meta-xylenediamide macrocycle is prepared by a new clipping methodology. Upon anion metathesis to the non-coordinating hexafluorophosphate salt, the rotaxane host system was shown to bind chloride and bromide anions more strongly than the basic oxoanions dihydrogen phosphate and acetate in the competitive solvent system 1:1 CDCl 3:CD 3OD. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
  • Evans, N., Serpell, C. and Beer, P. (2011). A redox-active [3]rotaxane capable of binding and electrochemically sensing chloride and sulfate anions. Chemical Communications [Online] 47:8775-8777. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-79960957827&partnerID=40&md5=77c973a1323b695adf7013eb05b01c18.
    A ferrocene functionalised redox-active [3]rotaxane which contains two interlocked anion recognition sites has been prepared by chloride anion templation. With chloride two equivalents of anion are bound, one in each of the interlocked cavities, while sulfate forms a 1:1 stoichimetric sandwich type complex; the rotaxane can also electrochemically sense the two anions in acetonitrile. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Serpell, C., Thomas, O., Odell, B., Claridge, T., Chall, R., Thompson, A. and Beer, P. (2011). Dimeric self-association of an isophthalamide macrocycle in solution and the solid state. CrystEngComm [Online] 13:4586-4591. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-79959789064&partnerID=40&md5=a943c750d7606fa6c60036e418b39b25.
    An isophthalamide macrocycle used in anion-templated interpenetrated structures is found to participate in dimeric self-assembly throughout eight different crystal forms. Analysis of these, in combination with solution-phase NMR studies, reveals the nature of the hydrogen-bonded self-association, yielding new perspectives and potential applications for the macrocycle system. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011.
  • Evans, N., Serpell, C. and Beer, P. (2011). A [2]catenane displaying pirouetting motion triggered by debenzylation and locked by chloride anion recognition. Chemistry - A European Journal [Online] 17:7734-7738. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/chem.201101033.
    Chloride locks the rings: Debenzylation of a chloride-templated N-benzyl pyridinium catenane, allows for a 180° "pirouetting" of the rings in the resulting neutral pyridyl catenane (see scheme). The catenane may be returned to its original co-conformation by chloride recognition as evidenced in solution and in the solid state. Copyright © 2011 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
  • Core@shell bimetallic nanoparticle synthesis via anion coordination (2011). Nature Chemistry [Online] 3:478-483. Available at: http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-79957438698&partnerID=40&md5=eb877b2692cdc1e87e9f91ae4cb34df8.
    Core@shell structured bimetallic nanoparticles are currently of immense interest due to their unique electronic, optical and catalytic properties. However, their synthesis is non-trivial. We report a new supramolecular route for the synthesis of core@shell nanoparticles, based on an anion coordination protocol-the first to function by binding the shell metal to the surface of the pre-formed primary metal core before reduction. The resultant gold/palladium and platinum/palladium core@shell nanoparticles have been characterized by aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (as well as other techniques), giving striking atomic-resolution images of the core@shell architecture, and the unique catalytic properties of the structured nanoparticles have been demonstrated in a remarkable improvement of the selective production of industrially valuable chloroaniline from chloronitrobenzene. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
  • Serpell, C., Cookson, J., Thompson, A. and Beer, P. (2011). A dual-functional tetrakis-imidazolium macrocycle for supramolecular assembly. Chemical Science [Online] 2:494-500. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1039/c0sc00511h.
    A new versatile tetrakis-imidazolium macrocycle for use in supramolecular applications is reported. It displays excellent affinities for p-electron rich neutral guests such as 1,5-dihydroxynaphthalene derivatives and TTF, providing opportunities for the construction of interlocked molecules, as well as exhibiting extensive and potent anion coordination chemistry. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011.


  • Biagini, S., Clark, E., Serpell, C., Shepherd, H., Shehata, S. and birchall, L. (2019). DNA Intercalation Investigation Using Water Soluble Fluorophore ROMP Polymers. University of Kent.


  • Gold Nanoparticles As Adjuncts in Electrophoretic Analysis of Biopolymers (2017).
    This thesis discusses two projects which investigate the analysis and application of biomolecules. Chapter 1 provides the background and context of this work. Chapter 2 discusses the synthesis and characterisation of three types of gold nanoparticles, sodium citrate, cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB) and 4-dimethylamino pyridine (DMAP) protected gold nanoparticles, as well as two types of polyacrylamide gel, TBE and tris-HCl. Successful characterisation of these gold nanoparticles was carried out by dynamic light scattering, ultra-violet visible spectroscopy and transmission emission microscopy. The characterisation of polyacrylamide gels was achieved by investigation by rheology, optical coherence tomography and scanning electron microscopy. Rheological analysis demonstrated that the addition of gold nanoparticles to polyacrylamide reduces the elasticity of the gel but stabilises the linear viscoelastic range, while not changing the core properties of the material. These materials were then used to separate sulfur containing biomolecules by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis.
    Chapter 3 discusses the efficacy of the three types of gold nanoparticles to separate sulfur containing biomolecules when added to polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Citrate and CTAB gold nanoparticles where unsuccessful when used to analyse phosphorothioated DNA, however, DMAP gold nanoparticles showed promising results. DMAP gold nanoparticles were further tested with the proteins lysozyme, bovine serum albumin (BSA), glutathione-S-transferase (GST) and RNAse A (RNAse). The retention of BSA and GST was successful however there was continued problems with visualising lysozyme and RNAse. This led to the development of ATP polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis.
    Chapter 4 discusses the theoretical application of the development of catalytic DNA aptamers using in vitro selection. We synthesised a DNA aptamer library, two primers and two biotinylated strands of DNA, to be used in the selection process. However due to poor purity and yields, the project remains in its infancy. We discuss the methods by which we would conduct this research and our justifications for these processes.


  • Birchall, L., Shehata, S., McCarthy, S., Shepherd, H., Clark, E., Serpell, C. and Biagini, S. (2020). Supramolecular Behaviour and Fluorescence of Rhodamine-Functionalised ROMP Polymer. ChemRxiv (pre-print server) [Online]. Available at: https://chemrxiv.org/articles/Supramolecular_Behaviour_and_Fluorescence_of_Rhodamine-Functionalised_ROMP_Polymer/12401921/1.
    Inherently fluorescent polymers are of interest in materials and medicine. We report a ring-opening metathesis polymerisation (ROMP) platform for creation of amphiphilic block copolymers in which one block is formed from rhodamine B-containing monomers. The polymers self-assemble into well-defined micelles which are able to sequester molecular dyes and further interact with them by energy transfer. Despite incorporating a cationic dye known to bind DNA, the polymer micelles do not interact with DNA, indicating that they are potentially safe for use in bioanalytical applications.
  • Shehata, S., Serpell, C. and Biagini, S. (2019). Controlled Release of Ibuprofen from Polymeric Nanoparticles. ChemRxiv Pre print server. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.26434/chemrxiv.9884114.v1.
    Smart polymeric systems are required that are able to release a therapeutic drug with controlled delivery. Herein we investigated the pH triggered release of ibuprofen from a polymeric nanoparticle system prepared using ring-opening metathesis polymerisation. The co-polymerisation of ibuprofen and poly(ethylene)glycol monomers followed by self-assembly produced a nanoparticle system that was shown to be stable at neutral pH but releases ibuprofen in alkaline conditions
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