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Influence of Enzyme Quantity and Distribution on the Self-Propulsion of Non-Janus Urease-Powered Micromotors

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posted on 22.05.2018, 00:00 by Tania Patiño, Natalia Feiner-Gracia, Xavier Arqué, Albert Miguel-López, Anita Jannasch, Tom Stumpp, Erik Schäffer, Lorenzo Albertazzi, Samuel Sánchez
The use of enzyme catalysis to power micro- and nanomachines offers unique features such as biocompatibility, versatility, and fuel bioavailability. Yet, the key parameters underlying the motion behavior of enzyme-powered motors are not completely understood. Here, we investigate the role of enzyme distribution and quantity on the generation of active motion. Two different micromotor architectures based on either polystyrene (PS) or polystyrene coated with a rough silicon dioxide shell (PS@SiO2) were explored. A directional propulsion with higher speed was observed for PS@SiO2 motors when compared to their PS counterparts. We made use of stochastically optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to precisely detect single urease molecules conjugated to the micromotors surface with a high spatial resolution. An asymmetric distribution of enzymes around the micromotor surface was observed for both PS and PS@SiO2 architectures, indicating that the enzyme distribution was not the only parameter affecting the motion behavior. We quantified the number of enzymes present on the micromotor surface and observed a 10-fold increase in the number of urease molecules for PS@SiO2 motors compared to PS-based micromotors. To further investigate the number of enzymes required to generate a self-propulsion, PS@SiO2 particles were functionalized with varying amounts of urease molecules and the resulting speed and propulsive force were measured by optical tracking and optical tweezers, respectively. Surprisingly, both speed and force depended in a nonlinear fashion on the enzyme coverage. To break symmetry for active propulsion, we found that a certain threshold number of enzymes molecules per micromotor was necessary, indicating that activity may be due to a critical phenomenon. Taken together, these results provide new insights into the design features of micro/nanomotors to ensure an efficient development.