Chlorinated isocyanuric acids are widely used water disinfectants that generate hypochlorite, but with repeated application, they build up cyanuric acid (CYA) that must be removed to maintain disinfection. 3-Aminopropyltriethoxysilane (APTES)-treated Escherichia coli cells expressing cyanuric acid hydrolase (CAH) from Moorella thermoacetica exhibited significantly high CYA degradation rates and provided protection against enzyme inactivation by hypochlorite (chlorine). APTES coating or encapsulation of cells had two benefits: (i) overcoming diffusion limitations imposed by the cell wall and (ii) protecting against hypochlorite inactivation of CAH activity. Cells encapsulated in APTES gels degraded CYA three times faster than nonfunctionalized tetraethoxysilane (TEOS) gels, and cells coated with APTES degraded CYA at a rate of 29mol/min per mg of CAH protein, similar to the rate with purified enzyme. UV spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy showed that the higher rates were due to APTES increasing membrane permeability and enhancing cyanuric acid diffusion into the cytoplasm to reach the CAH enzyme. Purified CAH enzyme was shown to be rapidly inactivated by hypochlorite. APTES aggregates surrounding cells protected via the amine groups reacting with hypochlorite as shown by pH changes, zeta potential measurements, and infrared spectroscopy. APTES-encapsulated E. coli cells expressing CAH degraded cyanuric acid at high rates in the presence of 1 to 10 ppm hypochlorite, showing effectiveness under swimming pool conditions. In contrast, CAH activity in TEOS gels or free cells was completely inactivated by hypochlorite. These studies show that commercially available silica materials can selectively enhance, protect, and immobilize whole-cell biocatalysts for specialized applications. IMPORTANCE Hypochlorite is used in vast quantities for water disinfection, killing bacteria on surfaces, and washing and whitening. In pools, spas, and other waters, hypochlorite is frequently delivered as chlorinated isocyanuric acids that release hypochlorite and cyanuric acid. Over time, cyanuric acid accumulates and impairs disinfection and must be removed. The microbial enzyme cyanuric acid hydrolase can potentially remove cyanuric acid to restore disinfection and protect swimmers. Whole bacterial cells expressing cyanuric acid hydrolase were encapsulated in an inert silica matrix containing an amine group. The amine group serves to permeabilize the cell membrane and accelerate cyanuric acid degradation, and it also reacts with hypochlorite to protect against inactivation of cyanuric acid hydrolase. Methods for promoting whole-cell biocatalysis are important in biotechnology, and the present work illustrates approaches to enhance rates and protect against an inhibitory substance.
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© 2015 Radian et al.