CAREER: Intein-Mediated Protein Polymer Hydrogels as General Scaffolds for Immobilization of Bioactive Proteins
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CBET 1150478/ ChenThis NSF CAREER award by the Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering program supports the engineering of a novel protein polymer hydrogel as a general scaffold for the immobilization of enzymes and bioactive proteins. Enzymes are versatile catalysts and are playing an ever-more prominent role in modern biotechnology. However, poor long-term stability and difficulties in recovery and recycling of enzymes in solution have greatly hampered their usefulness in biotransformation. Immobilization of enzymes on solid supports can significantly enhance their stability and enable convenient recycling and recovery. The proposed protein hydrogel takes advantage of intein-mediated protein splicing/ligation to form an inter-connected network of protein polymers. Successful completion of this project will provide a general method for the synthesis of protein hydrogels that densely and efficiently incorporate multiple bioactive proteins with a highly controlled molecular architecture.This program will achieve broader impacts (1) by expanding the current toolkit for protein immobilization and (2) through participation of young and aspiring scientists from diverse backgrounds. The technical goal of this work explores new frontiers in protein immobilization. Insights from these studies will benefit several industries employing biocatalytic processes, advance our ability to assemble efficient enzymatic pathways for biotransformation and enzymatic fuel cells, and facilitate the creation of new bioactive protein hydrogel scaffolds for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications. The educational goal of increasing public awareness in biotechnology/hydrogels will be achieved through: (1) establishing an interactive web-space and YouTube video modules focused on hydrogels and protein self-assembly, (2) designing hands-on hydrogel-focused experimental modules for showcasing in an established undergraduate course and at TAMU outreach outlets including Chemistry Week and Physics Day, (3) hosting and mentoring secondary science and math teachers through the E3 Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program, (4) educating juniors at a predominantly minority high school through class discussions on topics explored in the proposed research, (5) disseminating research results in a language understandable and appreciable by laypersons in collaboration with local journalists, and (6) hosting/mentoring undergraduate students in the lab, targeting minority students.