Bacterial expression of self-assembling peptide hydrogelators

Sonmez, Cem
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University of Delaware
For tissue regeneration and drug delivery applications, various architectures are explored to serve as biomaterial tools. Via de novo design, functional peptide hydrogel materials have been developed as scaffolds for biomedical applications. The objective of this study is to investigate bacterial expression as an alternative method to chemical synthesis for the recombinant production of self-assembling peptides that can form rigid hydrogels under physiological conditions. The Schneider and Pochan Labs have designed and characterized a 20 amino acid β-hairpin forming amphiphilic peptide containing a D-residue in its turn region (MAX1). As a result, this peptide must be prepared chemically. Peptide engineering, using the sequence of MAX1 as a template, afforded a small family of peptides for expression (EX peptides) that have different turn sequences consisting of natural amino acids and amenable to bacterial expression. Each sequence was initially chemically synthesized to quickly assess the material properties of its corresponding gel. One model peptide EX1, was chosen to start the bacterial expression studies. DNA constructs facilitating the expression of EX1 were designed in such that the peptide could be expressed with different fusion partners and subsequently cleaved by enzymatic or chemical means to afford the free peptide. Optimization studies were performed to increase the yield of pure peptide that ultimately allowed 50 mg of pure peptide to be harvested from one liter of culture, providing an alternate means to produce this hydrogel-forming peptide. Recombinant production of other self-assembling hairpins with different turn sequences was also successful using this optimized protocol. The studies demonstrate that new β-hairpin self-assembling peptides that are amenable to bacterial production and form rigid hydrogels at physiological conditions can be designed and produced by fermentation in good yield at significantly reduced cost when compared to chemical synthesis.