Phosphopantetheinyl transferase-catalyzed formation of bioactive hydrogels for tissue engineering
Synthetic bioactive hydrogels have been widely recognized as key elements of emerging strategies to engineer tissues. However, the current shortage of highly specific and biocompatible methods to form and functionalize these materials hampers their wide pharmaceutical and medical use. In particular, enzymatic reactions are underexplored for the synthesis of bioactive hydrogels. Here, we present an approach by which phosphopantetheinyl transferase (PPTase), a small (16.2 kDa) enzyme that plays a key role in the biosynthesis of many natural products, was employed to catalyze covalent cross-linking of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-based hydrogels. Gels were formed within minutes under physiological conditions by mixing two aqueous precursors containing multiarm PEG macromers end-functionalized with the PPTase substrate Coenzyme A (CoA) and a genetically engineered dimer of a carrier protein. The physicochemical properties of this new class of biomaterials were characterized. Bioactive hydrogels were produced by covalent incorporation of a CoA-functionalized cell adhesion peptide (RGDS), resulting in specific adhesion of primary fibroblasts on the hydrogel surfaces. 3D encapsulation of cells resulted in high cell viability (ca. 95%) and single cell migration over long distances within RGDS-modified gels.