This contribution describes the synthesis of polyphenylene dendrimers that are functionalized with up to 16 lysine residues or substituted with short peptide sequences composed of 5 lysine or glutamic acid repeats and a C- or N-terminal cysteine residue. Polyphenylene dendrimers were prepared via a sequence of Diels-Alder cycloaddition and deprotection reactions from cyclopentadienone building blocks. Single amino acids could be introduced on the periphery of the dendrimers by using amino acid substituted cyclopentadienones in the last Diels-Alder addition reaction. Alternatively, peptide sequences were attached via a chemoselective reaction, which involved the addition of the sulfhydryl group of a cysteine residue of an oligopeptide to a maleimide moiety present on the surface of the dendrimer. These amino acid and peptide functionalized dendrimers may be of interest as model compounds to study DNA complexation and condensation or as building blocks for the preparation of novel supramolecular architectures via layer-by-layer self-assembly. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.