Harnessing enzyme-substrate specificity for gel-based sensors

Gels that are held together by non-covalent interactions are a hot topic in supramolecular chemistry.  In this Communication, Itaru Hamachi’s research group from Kyoto University report a series of glycolipids that form  yellow hydrogels from orange suspensions when heated. The gelation and hence the colour change is reversible, and the authors hoped to use this response to create a sensor system.

Hamachi's gelator molecules

Once the gel has formed, adding a glycosidase enzyme which can selectively cleave the β-glucosidic bond leads to breakup of the gel and a colour change from yellow to orange. This response is only observed with an enzyme that is complimentary to the saccharide used as a “substrate unit” in the gelator. Hence, the authors have harnessed natural enzyme-substrate selectivity to yield a highly selective sensing system. The combination of a number of these gels into a sensor array chip yields a system that can simply and rapidly detect and distinguish a range of glycosidase enzymes. The ability to selectively sense these enzymes could have significant application for diagnosing disease and identifying bacterial contamination of drinking water.

Hamichi's sensor array

Read this ‘HOT’ ChemComm article today:

Supramolecular hydrogels based on bola-amphiphilic glycolipids showing color change in response to glycosidases

Rika Ochi, Kazuya Kurotani, Masato Ikeda, Shigeki Kiyonaka and Itaru Hamachi

Chem. Commun., 2013, 49, 2115-2117

DOI: 10.1039/C2CC37908B

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