Structural analysis of photocrosslinkable methacryloyl-modified protein derivatives

Kan Yue, Xiuyu Li, Karsten Schrobback, Amir Sheikhi, Nasim Annabi, Jeroen Leijten, Weijia Zhang, Yu Shrike Zhang, Dietmar W. Hutmacher, Travis J. Klein, Ali Khademhosseini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Biochemically modified proteins have attracted significant attention due to their widespread applications as biomaterials. For instance, chemically modified gelatin derivatives have been widely explored to develop hydrogels for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. Among the reported methods, modification of gelatin with methacrylic anhydride (MA) stands out as a convenient and efficient strategy to introduce functional groups and form hydrogels via photopolymerization. Combining light-activation of modified gelatin with soft lithography has enabled the materialization of microfabricated hydrogels. So far, this gelatin derivative has been referred to in the literature as gelatin methacrylate, gelatin methacrylamide, or gelatin methacryloyl, with the same abbreviation of GelMA. Considering the complex composition of gelatin and the presence of different functional groups on the amino acid residues, both hydroxyl groups and amine groups can possibly react with methacrylic anhydride during functionalization of the protein. This can also apply to the modification of other proteins, such as recombinant human tropoelastin to form MA-modified tropoelastin (MeTro). Here, we employed analytical methods to quantitatively determine the amounts of methacrylate and methacrylamide groups in MA-modified gelatin and tropoelastin to better understand the reaction mechanism. By combining two chemical assays with instrumental techniques, such as proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) and liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), our results indicated that while amine groups had higher reactivity than hydroxyl groups and resulted in a majority of methacrylamide groups, modification of proteins by MA could lead to the formation of both methacrylamide and methacrylate groups. It is therefore suggested that the standard terms for GelMA and MeTro should be defined as gelatin methacryloyl and methacryloyl-substituted tropoelastin, respectively, to remain consistent with the widespread abbreviations used in literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-171
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Sep 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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