Molecular imprinting of nicotine and related carcinogenic chemicals in itaconic acid – ethylene glycol dimethacrylate copolymer is described. Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are made to contain binding sites capable of recognizing nicotine; thus the fingerprint of the nicotine created in the polymer allows it to serve as an ideal molecular recognition element. We demonstrate that the imprinted polymers show high selective binding affinity in biological buffers. This is a previously un-described initiative for molecular imprinting, since the binding occurs under conditions relevant to biological systems. Due to effect of molecular imprinting nanocavities with size 24±5 nm were formed and these nicotine receptor sites were distributed homogeneously in the nicotine imprinted polymer. The nicotine receptors showed highly selective to nicotine with Kd values as low as 10-5M, and the levels of selectivity similar to those of natural molecules - acetylcholine esterase (AChE). The recognition properties of the polymer receptor were analyzed using ultra-violet spectroscopy, computer simulations and adsorption assay. Importantly, the receptors were effective in wide pH range (6.8-8.2) while the natural nicotine receptors showed high binding only at pH 7.6. The high specificity and stability of artificial receptors rendered them promising alternatives to enzymes, antibodies, and other natural receptors useful in biomedical assays, sensors and drug development.
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