Turn-on fluorescence detection of protein by molecularly imprinted hydrogels based on supramolecular assembly of peptide multi-functional blocks†
Synthetic receptors for biomacromolecules lack the supramolecular self-assembly behavior typical of biological systems. Here we propose a new method for the preparation of protein imprinted polymers based on the specific interaction of a peptide multi-functional block with a protein target. This peptide block contains a protein-binding peptide domain, a polymerizable moiety at the C-terminus and an environment-sensitive fluorescent molecule at the N-terminus. The method relies on a preliminary step consisting of peptide/protein supramolecular assembly, followed by copolymerization with the most common acrylate monomers (acrylamide, acrylic acid and bis-acrylamide) to produce a protein imprinted hydrogel polymer. Such a peptide block can function as an active assistant recognition element to improve affinity, and guarantees its effective polymerization at the protein/cavity interface, allowing for proper placement of a dye. As a proof of concept, we chose Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) as the protein target and built the peptide block around a BSA binding dodecapeptide, with an allyl group as the polymerizable moiety and a dansyl molecule as the responsive dye. Compared to conventional approaches these hydrogels showed higher affinity (more than 45%) and imprinted sensitivity (about twenty fold) to the target, with a great BSA selectivity with respect to ovalbumin (α = 1.25) and lysozyme (α = 6.02). Upon protein binding, computational and experimental observations showed a blue shift of the emission peak (down to 440 nm) and an increase of fluorescence emission (twofold) and average lifetime (Δτ = 4.3 ns). Such an approach generates recognition cavities with controlled chemical information and represents an a priori method for self-responsive materials. Provided a specific peptide and minimal optimization conditions are used, such a method could be easily implemented for any protein target.
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