Automatic and Integrated Micro-Enzyme Assay (AIμEA) Platform for Highly Sensitive Thrombin Analysis via an Engineered Fluorescence Protein-Functionalized Monolithic Capillary Column

Nowadays, large-scale screening for enzyme discovery, engineering, and drug discovery processes require simple, fast, and sensitive enzyme activity assay platforms with high integration and potential for high-throughput detection. Herein, a novel automatic and integrated micro-enzyme assay (AIμEA) platform was proposed based on a unique microreaction system fabricated by a engineered green fluorescence protein (GFP)-functionalized monolithic capillary column, with thrombin as an example. The recombinant GFP probe was rationally engineered to possess a His-tag and a substrate sequence of thrombin, which enable it to be immobilized on the monolith via metal affinity binding, and to be released after thrombin digestion. Combined with capillary electrophoresis-laser-induced fluorescence (CE-LIF), all the procedures, including thrombin injection, online enzymatic digestion in the microreaction system, and label-free detection of the released GFP, were integrated in a single electrophoretic process. By taking advantage of the ultrahigh loading capacity of the AIμEA platform and the CE automatic programming setup, one microreaction column was sufficient for many times digestion without replacement. The novel microreaction system showed significantly enhanced catalytic efficiency, about 30 fold higher than that of the equivalent bulk reaction. Accordingly, the AIμEA platform was highly sensitive with a limit of detection down to 1 pM of thrombin. Moreover, the AIμEA platform was robust and reliable to detect thrombin in human serum samples and its inhibition by hirudin. Hence, this AIμEA platform exhibits great potential for high-throughput analysis in future biological application, disease diagnostics, and drug screening.