The intracellular environment of eukaryotic cells has been found to have membrane-less organelles, which form through liquid-liquid phase separation.1,2 The membrane-less organelles within the cell can be modeled with multiphase complex coacervates that are formed through the combination of two liquid polyelectrolyte complex coacervates, which are individually made up of a pair of one positively charged polymer and one negatively charged polymer.3,4 Membrane-less organelles in a eukaryotic cell have been found to aggregate from liquid to solid in neurological disorders and during the aging process5, and investigation into the factors affecting aggregation of multiphase complex coacervates may shed light on how membrane-less organelles aggregate in the eukaryotic cell. This project specifically aims to investigate how hydrophobicity differences between the polyelectrolyte complex coacervates affect the secondary structure of the multiphase complex coacervate, particularly the beta-sheet structure of the multiphase complex coacervate, which indicates a more solid structure.6 Positively and negatively charged heterochiral polypeptides with varying hydrophobicity were synthesized with solid-phase peptide synthesis and combined to form polyelectrolyte complex coacervates and multiphase complex coacervates; these were then characterized with optical microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and critical salt concentration measurements. Results indicate that a larger hydrophobicity difference between the two polyelectrolyte complex coacervates of a multiphase complex correlates to a more solid character of the multiphase complex, although the character of the individual polyelectrolyte complex coacervates also affects the character of the multiphase complex.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Leon, Lorraine


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Biomedical Sciences



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date


Included in

Neurology Commons