The presence of endotoxin, also known as lipopolysaccharides (LPS), as a side product appears to be a major drawback for the production of certain biomolecules that are essential for research, pharmaceutical, and industrial applications. In the biotechnology industry, gram-negative bacteria (e.g., Escherichia coli ) are widely used to produce recombinant products such as proteins, plasmid DNAs and vaccines. These products are contaminated with LPS, which may cause side effects when administered to animals or humans. Purification of LPS often suffers from product loss. For this reason, special attention must be paid when purifying proteins aiming a product as free as possible of LPS with high product recovery. Although there are a number of methods for removing LPS, the question about how LPS removal can be carried out in an efficient and economical way is still one of the most intriguing issues and has no satisfactory solution yet. In this work, polymeric poly-∈-caprolactone (PCL) nanoparticles (NPs) (dP = 780 ± 285 nm) were synthesized at a relatively low cost and demonstrated to possess sufficient binding sites for LPS adsorption and removal with ~100% protein recovery. The PCL NPs removed greater than 90% LPS from protein solutions suspended in water using only one milligram (mg) of NPs, which was equivalent to ~1.5 x 106 endotoxin units (EU) per mg of particle. The LPS removal efficacy increased to a higher level (~100%) when phosphate buffered saline (PBS containing 137 mM NaCl) was used as a protein suspending medium in place of water, reflecting positive effects of increasing ionic strength on LPS binding interactions and adsorption. The results further showed that the PCL NPs not only achieved 100% LPS removal but also ~100% protein recovery for a wide concentration range from 20-1000 µg/ml of protein solutions. The NPs were highly effective in different buffers and pHs. To scale up the process further, PCL NPs were incorporated into a supporting cellulose membrane which promoted LPS adsorption further up to ~100% just by running the LPS-containing water through the membrane under gravity. Its adsorption capacity was 2.8 x 106 mg of PCL NPs, approximately 2 -fold higher than that of NPs alone. This is the first demonstration of endotoxin separation with high protein recovery using polymer NPs and the NP-based portable filters, which provide strong adsorptive interactions for LPS removal from protein solutions. Additional features of these NPs and membranes are biocompatible (environment friendly) recyclable after repeated elution and adsorption with no significant changes in LPS removal efficiencies. The results indicate that PCL NPs are an effective LPS adsorbent in powder and membrane forms, which have great potential to be employed in large-scale applications.


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for Research in Energy and Environment (CREE)

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Article - Journal

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Final Version

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Publication Date

01 Dec 2019

PubMed ID