Faster Surface Ligation Reactions Improve Immobilized Enzyme Structure and Activity

J Am Chem Soc. 2021 May 12;143(18):7154-7163. doi: 10.1021/jacs.1c02375. Epub 2021 Apr 29.


During integration into materials, the inactivation of enzymes as a result of their interaction with nanometer size denaturing "hotspots" on surfaces represents a critical challenge. This challenge, which has received far less attention than improving the long-term stability of enzymes, may be overcome by limiting the exploration of surfaces by enzymes. One way this may be accomplished is through increasing the rate constant of the surface ligation reaction and thus the probability of immobilization with reactive surface sites (i.e., ligation efficiency). Here, the connection between ligation reaction efficiency and the retention of enzyme structure and activity was investigated by leveraging the extremely fast reaction of strained trans-cyclooctene (sTCOs) and tetrazines (Tet). Remarkably, upon immobilization via Tet-sTCO chemistry, carbonic anhydrase (CA) retained 77% of its solution-phase activity, while immobilization via less efficient reaction chemistries, such as thiol-maleimide and azide-dibenzocyclooctyne, led to activity retention of only 46% and 27%, respectively. Dynamic single-molecule fluorescence tracking methods further revealed that longer surface search distances prior to immobilization (>0.5 μm) dramatically increased the probability of CA unfolding. Notably, the CA distance to immobilization was significantly reduced through the use of Tet-sTCO chemistry, which correlated with the increased retention of structure and activity of immobilized CA compared to the use of slower ligation chemistries. These findings provide an unprecedented insight into the role of ligation reaction efficiency in mediating the exploration of denaturing hotspots on surfaces by enzymes, which, in turn, may have major ramifications in the creation of functional biohybrid materials.