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A water soluble fluorescent polymer as a dual colour sensor for temperature and a specific protein

: Inal, S.; Kölsch, J.D.; Sellrie, F.; Schenk, J.A.; Wischerhoff, E.; Laschewsky, A.; Neher, D.


Journal of materials chemistry. B, Materials for biology and medicine 1 (2013), Nr.46, S.6373-6381
ISSN: 2050-750X
ISSN: 2050-7518
Fraunhofer IAP ()

We present two thermoresponsive water soluble copolymers prepared via free radical statistical copolymerization of N-isopropylacrylamide (NIPAm) and of oligo(ethylene glycol) methacrylates (OEGMAs), respectively, with a solvatochromic 7-(diethylamino)-3-carboxy-coumarin (DEAC)-functionalized monomer. In aqueous solutions, the NIPAm-based copolymer exhibits characteristic changes in its fluorescence profile in response to a change in solution temperature as well as to the presence of a specific protein, namely an anti-DEAC antibody. This polymer emits only weakly at low temperatures, but exhibits a marked fluorescence enhancement accompanied by a change in its emission colour when heated above its cloud point. Such drastic changes in the fluorescence and absorbance spectra are observed also upon injection of the anti-DEAC antibody, attributed to the specific binding of the antibody to DEAC moieties. Importantly, protein binding occurs exclusively when the polymer is in the well hydrated state below the cloud point, enabling a temperature control on the molecular recognition event. On the other hand, heating of the polymer–antibody complexes releases a fraction of the bound antibody. In the presence of the DEAC-functionalized monomer in this mixture, the released antibody competitively binds to the monomer and the antibody-free chains of the polymer undergo a more effective collapse and inter-aggregation. In contrast, the emission properties of the OEGMA-based analogous copolymer are rather insensitive to the thermally induced phase transition or to antibody binding. These opposite behaviours underline the need for a carefully tailored molecular design of responsive polymers aimed at specific applications, such as biosensing.