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Magnetic Separation of Elastin-like Polypeptide Receptors for Enrichment of Cellular and Molecular Targets

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-10-31, 00:00 authored by Duy Tien Ta, Rosario Vanella, Michael A. Nash
Protein-conjugated magnetic nanoparticles (mNPs) are promising tools for a variety of biomedical applications, from immunoassays and biosensors to theranostics and drug-delivery. In such applications, conjugation of affinity proteins (e.g., antibodies) to the nanoparticle surface many times compromises biological activity and specificity, leading to increased reagent consumption and decreased assay performance. To address this problem, we engineered a biomolecular magnetic separation system that eliminates the need to chemically modify nanoparticles with the capture biomolecules or synthetic polymers of any kind. The system consists of (i) thermoresponsive magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles displaying poly­(N-isopropylacrylamide) (pNIPAm), and (ii) an elastin-like polypeptide (ELP) fused with the affinity protein Cohesin (Coh). Proper design of pNIPAm-mNPs and ELP-Coh allowed for efficient cross-aggregation of the two distinct nanoparticle types under collapsing stimuli, which enabled magnetic separation of ELP-Coh aggregates bound to target Dockerin (Doc) molecules. Selective resolubilization of the ELP-Coh/Doc complexes was achieved under intermediate conditions under which only the pNIPAm-mNPs remained aggregated. We show that ELP-Coh is capable of magnetically separating and purifying nanomolar quantities of Doc as well as eukaryotic whole cells displaying the complementary Doc domain from diluted human plasma. This modular system provides magnetic enrichment and purification of captured molecular targets and eliminates the requirement of biofunctionalization of magnetic nanoparticles to achieve bioseparations. Our streamlined and simplified approach is amenable for point-of-use applications and brings the advantages of ELP-fusion proteins to the realm of magnetic particle separation systems.