Protein-Doped Monolithic Silica Columns for Capillary Liquid Chromatography Prepared by the Sol−Gel Method: Applications to Frontal Affinity Chromatography
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The development of bioaffinity chromatography columns that are based on the entrapment of biomolecules within the pores of sol-gel-derived monolithic silica is reported. Monolithic nanoflow columns are formed by mixing the protein-compatible silica precursor diglycerylsilane with a buffered aqueous solution containing poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO, MW 10,000) and the protein of interest and then loading this mixture into a fused-silica capillary (150-250-microm i.d.). Spinodal decomposition of the PEO-doped sol into two distinct phases prior to the gelation of the silica results in a bimodal pore distribution that produces large macropores (>0.1 microm), to allow good flow of eluent with minimal back pressure, and mesopores (approximately 3-5-nm diameter) that retain a significant fraction of the entrapped protein. Addition of low levels of (3-aminopropyl)triethoxysilane is shown to minimize nonselective interactions of analytes with the column material, resulting in a column that is able to retain small molecules by virtue of their interaction with the entrapped biomolecules. Such columns are shown to be suitable for pressure-driven liquid chromatography and can be operated at relatively high flow rates (up to 500 microL x min(-1)) or with low back pressures (<100 psi) when used at flow rates of 5-10 microL x min(-1). The clinically relevant enzyme dihydrofolate reductase was entrapped within the bioaffinity columns and was used to screen mixtures of small molecules using frontal affinity chromatography with mass spectrometric detection. Inhibitors present in compound mixtures were retained via bioaffinity interactions, with the retention time being dependent on both the ligand concentration and the affinity of the ligand for the protein. The results suggest that such columns may find use in high-throughput screening of compound mixtures.
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