Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ( IF 9.412 ) Pub Date : 2020-10-14 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1920352117 Juyao Dong, Michael A. Lee, Ananth Govind Rajan, Imon Rahaman, Jessica H. Sun, Minkyung Park, Daniel P. Salem, Michael S. Strano
Molecular recognition binding sites that specifically identify a target molecule are essential for life science research, clinical diagnoses, and therapeutic development. Corona phase molecular recognition is a technique introduced to generate synthetic recognition at the surface of a nanoparticle corona, but it remains an important question whether such entities can achieve the specificity of natural enzymes and receptors. In this work, we generate and screen a library of 24 amphiphilic polymers, preselected for molecular recognition and based on functional monomers including methacrylic acid, acrylic acid, and styrene, iterating upon a poly(methacrylic acid-co-styrene) motif. When complexed to a single-walled carbon nanotube, some of the resulting corona phases demonstrate binding specificity remarkably similar to that of phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of secondary messenger. The corona phase binds selectively to a PDE5 inhibitor, Vardenafil, as well as its molecular variant, but not to other potential off-target inhibitors. Our work herein examines the specificity and sensitivity of polymer “mutations” to the corona phase, as well as direct competitions with the native binding PDE5. Using structure perturbation, corona surface characterization, and molecular dynamics simulations, we show that the molecular recognition is associated with the unique three-dimensional configuration of the corona phase formed at the nanotube surface. This work conclusively shows that corona phase molecular recognition can mimic key aspects of biological recognition sites and drug targets, opening up possibilities for pharmaceutical and biological applications.