FRET peptidyl sensors for the detection of metal ions
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This research focuses on developing selective FRET peptidyl metal ion sensors as a portable and less costly alterative to traditional atomic spectrometric techniques. Initially, a selective sensor for Cu²⁺ was developed that consisted of glycine and aspartic acid residues and the FRET pair tryptophan (donor) and dansyl (acceptor). Aspartic acid's affinity for hard acid metals and Cu²⁺'s preference for square planar coordination was used as the basis of design. Although the sensor was designed to utilize the signal enhancement capabilities of FRET, quenching of both fluorophores occurred and proved to be the most sensitive means of quantifying Cu²⁺ binding. Nonetheless, the sensor provided a selective and sensitive response to Cu²⁺ at pH 7.0. Another FRET peptide metal ion sensor was designed with the help of a biological starting point, the mercury binding protein MerP. A sensitive FRET enhancement or "turn on" response was observed for Hg²⁺, as well as Zn²⁺, Cd²⁺ and Ag²⁺ in pH 7.0 solution. While a selective response for only Hg²⁺ was the ultimate goal of this study, this sensor is still an improvement over current systems which utilize a quenching mechanism for Hg²⁺ detection. While the previous studies investigated these sensors in aqueous solutions, the end goal was to devise a sensor based on an immobilized peptide chelator with FRET capabilities. To this end, immobilized, fluorophore labeled peptide studies were then conducted on Tentagel resin using a visible region FRET pair. A flow injection fluorescence analysis system using the immobilized fluorophore labeled peptide as the ion exchange material was also designed, allowing for the efficient analysis of fluorescence solutions. In addition to the work conducted with FRET sensors, studies were also conducted using magnetic [gamma]-Fe₂O₃ nanoparticles with PLCys immobilized onto the surface. The [gamma]-Fe₂O₃ nanoparticles are ideal supports since they can be magnetically collected and have a very large surface area to mass ratio. Finally, a method was developed to quantitatively screen metals bound to single Tentagel beads with immobilized peptides using ETV-ICP-MS. This method is an improvement over existing methods because it is nondestructive and simultaneously provides the absolute content of all metals bound.