Low-fouling, mixed-charge poly-l-lysine polymers with anionic oligopeptide side-chains†
Biosensors and biomedical devices require antifouling surfaces to prevent the non-specific adhesion of proteins or cells, for example, when aiming to detect circulating cancer biomarkers in complex natural media (e.g., in blood plasma or serum). A mixed-charge polymer was prepared by the coupling of a cationic polyelectrolyte and an anionic oligopeptide through a modified “grafting-to” method. The poly-L-lysine (PLL) backbone was modified with different percentages (y%) of maleimide–NHS ester chains (PLL-mal(y%), from 13% to 26%), to produce cationic polymers with specific grafting densities, obtaining a mixed-charge polymer. The anionic oligopeptide structure (CEEEEE) included one cysteine (C) and five glutamic acid (E) units, which were attached to the PLL-mal(y%) polymers, preadsorbed on gold substrates, through the thiol–maleimide Michael-type addition. Contact angle and PM-IRRAS data confirmed monolayer formation of the modified PLLs. Antifouling properties of peptide–PLL surfaces were assessed in adsorption studies using quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D) and surface plasmon resonance imaging (SPRI) techniques. PLL-mal(26%)-CEEEEE showed the best antifouling performance in single-protein solutions, and the nonspecific adsorption of proteins was 46 ng cm−2 using diluted human plasma samples. The new PLL-mal(26%)-CEEEEE polymer offers a prominent low-fouling activity in complex media, with rapid and simple procedures for the synthesis and functionalization of the surface compared to conventional non-fouling materials.
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