PenTag, a Versatile Platform for Synthesizing Protein-Polymer Biohybrid Materials

The site-specific and covalent conjugation of proteins on solid supports and in hydrogels is the basis for the synthesis of biohybrid materials offering broad applications. Current methods for conjugating proteins to desired targets are often challenging due to unspecific binding, unstable (noncovalent) coupling, or expensive and difficult-to-synthesize ligand molecules. Here, is presented PenTag, an approach for the bioorthogonal, highly specific, and covalent conjugation of a protein to its ligand for various applications in materials sciences. Penicillin-binding protein 3 (PBP3) is engineered and shows that this protein can be used for the stable and spontaneous conjugation of proteins to dyes, polymers, or solid supports. PenTag as a crosslinking tool is applied for synthesizing stimuli-responsive hydrogels or for the development of a biohybrid material system performing computational operations emulating a 4:2 encoder. Based on this broad applicability and the use of a small, cheap, and easy-to-functionalize ligand and a stable, soluble recombinant protein, is seen PenTag as a versatile approach toward biohybrid material synthesis.