A Bioorthogonal Small Molecule Selective Polymeric "clickase"

Junfeng Chen, Ke Li, Sarah E. Bonson, Steven C. Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synthetic polymer scaffolds may serve as gatekeepers preventing the adhesion of biomacromolecules. Herein, we use gating to develop a copper-containing single-chain nanoparticle (SCNP) catalyst as an artificial "clickase"that operates selectively on small molecules that are able to penetrate the polymeric shell. Whereas the analogous clickase with surface ammonium groups performs highly efficient copper(I)-catalyzed alkyne-azide cycloaddition (CuAAC) reactions on both alkynylated proteins and small molecule substrates, the new SCNP clickase with polyethylene glycol (PEG) groups is only active on small molecules. Further, the new SCNP resists uptake by cells allowing extracellular click chemistry to be performed. We describe two proof of principle applications that illustrate the utility of the bioorthogonal activity. First, the SCNP catalyst is able to screen for ligands that bind proteins, including proteolysis targeting chimera (PROTAC)-like molecules. Second, the nonmembrane permeable SCNP can efficiently catalyze the click reaction extracellularly, thereby enabling in situ anticancer drug synthesis and screening without the catalyst perturbing intracellular functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13966-13973
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number32
StatePublished - Aug 12 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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