For nearly a decade, our group has been investigating how short peptides self-assemble or aggregate to form gels and other bio-mimetic materials. Meanwhile, biologists have come to realise that non-coding RNA in the cell and intrinsically disordered proteins (IDP – very long unfolded peptide chains) can form gel-like condensates that are often referred to as liquid-liquid phase separated (LLPS) droplets.
Armed with our experience in understanding complex peptide self-assembly, we believe that the key to understanding these RNA-peptide based gel-like droplet is through advancing our understanding of how RNA and peptides interact at the molecular level. This includes probing potential sequence-selectivity and the role of various supramolecular interactions ranging from hydrophobic interactions, hydrogen bonding, electrostatic and aromatic interactions. I will report here on our initial foray into the supramolecular chemistry of RNA-peptide interactions which we believe could provide us with the knowledge required to develop therapeutics and technologies based on modulating these interactions in biology and medicine.