Probing Exchange Pathways in One-Dimensional Aggregates with Super-Resolution Microscopy

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Supramolecular fibers are prominent structures in biology and chemistry. A quantitative understanding of molecular exchange pathways in these one-dimensional aggregates was obtained by a combination of super-resolution stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy and stochastic simulation. The potential of this methodology is demonstrated with a set of well-defined synthetic building blocks that self-assemble into supramolecular fibrils. Previous ensemble measurements hid all molecular phenomena underpinning monomer exchange, but the molecular pathway determined from single-aggregate studies revealed unexpected homogeneous exchange along the polymer backbone. These results pave the way for experimental investigation of the structure and exchange pathways of synthetic and natural supramolecular fibers.

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