Aptamer-Functionalized Conjugated Polymer Nanosensors for the Detection of Proteins

PCC-ORC tandem project (Joris Sprakel, PCC & Bauke Albada, ORC)

The optoelectronic properties of semiconducting polymers (like structure 1) are the result of a delocalized electronic
structure along their backbone. Under influence of external triggers, this delocalized electronic structure undergoes
distinct vibronic shifts, which can be sensitively detected spectroscopically. It was shown that such shifts can be used
to detect external forces acting on the polymers, e.g. as the result of analyte binding. In this project, you will attach
DNA-based aptamers (2), which are oligonucleotides that can bind to specific proteins, to the polymer backbone.
When target proteins are present in a solution, they will bind to the aptamer-part of the DNA-polymer conjugate. This
will impose a change in the backbone conformation of the polymer, leading to a change in its fluorescence.

Aptamer-Functionalized Conjugated Polymer Nanosensors for the detection of proteins.png

Tasks for this project:
- Microwave-assisted synthesis of the fluorescent conjugated polymer (1).
- Attach the amino-functionalized thrombin-binding aptamer (TBA-NH 2 , 2) to the polymer. Purify the synthesized DNA-
polymer conjugate (3) by dialysis. Characterize the obtained hybrid material (MS, GPC, UV-vis, fluorescence, IR, etc.)
- Determine thrombin (4) sensing ability and detection sensitivity of the conjugate.

If all goes well, and there is time, the following tasks can be performed:
- Attach a lysozyme-binding aptamer (LBA-NH 2 ) to a polymer with different fluorescent properties.
- Specifically detect either lysozyme or thrombin in a mixture of proteins and sensors.

The studies will be performed in the labs of PCC and ORC.