Novel insights into macromolecularly imprinted polymers for the specific recognition of protein biomarkers



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Bulk imprinted polymers were synthesized using traditional small molecular weight imprinting techniques for the recognition of bovine serum albumin (BSA). Reproducibility and capacity concerns prompted the use of circular dichroism to investigate the potential effects that conditions commonly employed have on the structure of the protein prior to polymerization. These studies clearly showed a substantial change in the secondary structure of three common model protein templates when in the presence of various monomers and crosslinkers. Molecular docking was used to further examine the interactions taking place at the molecular level. Docking simulations revealed that significant amounts of non-covalent interactions are occurring between the amino acid side chains and ligands; although, the interactions taking place amongst the analyte and polypeptide backbone are responsible for the experimentally observed conformational change. The computational studies also showed that several of the ligands preferentially ‘docked’ to the same amino acids in the protein, indicating that if multiple monomers are employed, this competition for similar binding sites will potentially result in non-specific recognition. These findings are important as they offer insight into the fundamental reasons why recognition of macromolecular templates has proven difficult as well as provide guidance for future success in the field. Using this information, novel surface imprinted polymers were synthesized via a facile technique for the specific recognition of BSA. Thin films based on 2-(dimethylamino)ethyl methacrylate (DMAEMA) as the functional monomer and varying amounts of either N,N’ methylenebisacrylamide (MBA) or poly(ethylene glycol) (400) dimethacrylate (PEG400DMA) as crosslinker were synthesized via UV free-radical polymerization. A clear and reproducible increase in recognition of the template was demonstrated for these systems as 1.6-2.5 times more BSA was recognized by the MIP sample relative to the control polymers. Additionally, these polymers exhibited specific recognition of the template relative to similar competitor proteins with up to 2.9 times more BSA adsorbed than either glucose oxidase or bovine hemoglobin. These synthetic antibody mimics hold significant promise as the next generation of robust recognition elements in a wide range of bioassay and biosensor applications.