Journal of the American Chemical Society

Recyclable thermoresponsive polymer-cellulase bioconjugates for biomass depolymerization.

PMID 23270527


Here we report the construction and characterization of a recoverable, thermoresponsive polymer-endoglucanase bioconjugate that matches the activity of unmodified enzymes on insoluble cellulose substrates. Two copolymers exhibiting a thermoresponsive lower critical solution temperature (LCST) were created through the copolymerization of an aminooxy-bearing methacrylamide with N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAm) or N-isopropylmethacrylamide (NIPMa). The aminooxy group provided a handle through which the LCST was adjusted through small-molecule quenching. This allowed materials with LCSTs ranging from 20.9 to 60.5 °C to be readily obtained after polymerization. The thermostable endoglucanase EGPh from the hypothermophilic Pyrococcus horikoshii was transaminated with pyridoxal-5'-phosphate to produce a ketone-bearing protein, which was then site-selectively modified through oxime linkage with benzylalkoxyamine or 5 kDa-poly(ethylene glycol)-alkoxyamine. These modified proteins showed activity comparable to the controls when assayed on an insoluble cellulosic substrate. Two polymer bioconjugates were then constructed using transaminated EGPh and the aminooxy-bearing copolymers. After 12 h, both bioconjugates produced an equivalent amount of free reducing sugars as the unmodified control using insoluble cellulose as a substrate. The recycling ability of the NIPAm copolymer-EGPh conjugate was determined through three rounds of activity, maintaining over 60% activity after two cycles of reuse and affording significantly more soluble carbohydrates than unmodified enzyme alone. When assayed on acid-pretreated Miscanthus, this bioconjugate increased the amount of reducing sugars by 2.8-fold over three rounds of activity. The synthetic strategy of this bioconjugate allows the LCST of the material to be changed readily from a common stock of copolymer and the method of attachment is applicable to a variety of proteins, enabling the same approach to be amenable to thermophile-derived cellulases or to the separation of multiple species using polymers with different recovery temperatures.