Conjugation of Amphiphilic Proteins to Hydrophobic Ligands in Organic Solvent

Antonietta M. Lillo, Ciana L. Lopez, Trideep Rajale, Hung Ju Yen, Harsha D. Magurudeniya, M. Lisa Phipps, Eva Rose M. Balog, Timothy C. Sanchez, Srinivas Iyer, Hsing Lin Wang, Ryszard Michalczyk, Reginaldo C. Rocha, Jennifer S. Martinez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Protein-ligand conjugations are usually carried out in aqueous media in order to mimic the environment within which the conjugates will be used. In this work, we focus on the conjugation of amphiphilic variants of elastin-like polypeptide (ELP), short elastin (sEL), to poorly water-soluble compounds like OPPVs (p-phenylenevinylene oligomers), triarylamines, and polypyridine-metal complexes. These conjugations are problematic when carried out in aqueous phase because hydrophobic ligands tend to avoid exposure to water, which in turn causes the ligand to self-aggregate and/or interact noncovalently with hydrophobic regions of the amphiphile. Ultimately, this behavior leads to low conjugation efficiency and contamination with strong noncovalent "conjugates". After exploring the solubility of sEL in various organic solvents, we have established an efficient conjugation methodology for obtaining covalent conjugates virtually free of contaminating noncovalent complexes. When conjugating carboxylated ligands to the amphiphile amines, we demonstrate that even when only one amine (the N-terminus) is present, its derivatization is 98% efficient. When conjugating amine moieties to the amphiphile carboxyls (a problematic configuration), protein multimerization is avoided, 98-100% of the protein is conjugated, and the unreacted ligand is recovered in pure form. Our syntheses occur in "one pot", and our purification procedure is a simple workup utilizing a combination of water and organic solvent extractions. This conjugation methodology might provide a solution to problems arising from solubility mismatch of protein and ligand, and it is likely to be widely applied for modification of recombinant amphiphiles used for drug delivery (PEG-antibodies, polymer-enzymes, food proteins), cell adhesion (collagen, hydrophobins), synthesis of nanostructures (peptides), and engineering of biocompatible optoelectronics (biological polymers), to cite a few.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2654-2664
Number of pages11
JournalBioconjugate Chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 15 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry


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