Abstract: Chemical functionalization of poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) enables a molecular integration of additional function. Here, we report an approach to incorporate reactive alkynyl side-groups by synthesizing a chain-extended PCL, where the reactive site is introduced through the covalently functionalizable chain extender 3-(prop-2-yn-1-yloxy)propane-1,2-diol (YPD). Chain-extended PCL with Mw of 101 to 385 kg·mol−1 were successfully synthesized in a one-pot reaction from PCL-diols with various molar masses, L-lysine ethyl ester diisocyanate (LDI) or trimethyl(hexamethylene)diisocyanate (TMDI), and YPD, in which the density of functionalizable groups and spacing between them can be controlled by the composition of the polymer. The employed diisocyanate compounds and YPD possess an asymmetric structure and form a non-crystallizable segment leaving the PCL crystallites to dominate the material’s mechanical properties. The mixed glass transition temperature Tg = −60 to −46 °C of the PCL/polyurethane amorphous phase maintains the synthesized materials in a highly elastic state at ambient and physiological conditions. Reaction conditions for covalent attachment in copper(I)-catalyzed azide-alkyne-cycloaddition reactions (CuAAC) in solution were optimized in a series of model reactions between the alkyne moieties of the chain-extended PCL and benzyl azide, reaching conversions over 95% of the alkyne moieties and with yields of up to 94% for the purified functionalized PCL. This methodology was applied for reaction with the azide-functionalized cell adhesion peptide GRGDS. The required modification of the peptide provides selectivity in the coupling reactions. The obtained results suggest that YPD could potentially be employed as versatile molecular unit for the creation of a variety of functionalizable polyesters as well as polyurethanes and polycarbonates offering efficient and selective click-reactions.

"Alkynyl-functionalized chain-extended PCL for coupling to biological molecules" - New article published in the European Polymer Journal