Polyethylene glycol crowding effect on hyaluronidase activity monitored by capillary electrophoresis


To mimic the activity of hyaluronidase in natural environment, the hydrolysis of hyaluronic acid (HA) by hyaluronidase was investigated for the first time in the presence of crowding agents using capillary electrophoresis (CE) as a simple and reliable technique for conducting enzymatic assay. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) 6000 was selected as a model crowder and the hyaluronic acid degradation catalyzed by bovine testes hyaluronidase (BTH) was carried out at different PEG concentrations (0%, 10%, and 17%). After optimization of the CE analytical method and enzymatic assay, the degradation products were monitored at different HA concentrations. At 10% of PEG and 0.3 mg mL−1 of HA, the activity of the enzyme was significantly reduced showing inconvenient interactions of PEG with the hyaluronidase blocking the release of hydrolysis products. A similar reduction of hyaluronidase activity was observed at 1 mg mL−1 of HA due to the presumable formation of the BTH-substrate complex. The experimental curves obtained by CE also evidence that the overall kinetics are governed by the hydrolysis of hexasaccharide intermediates. Finally, the effect of PEG on hyaluronidase activity was evaluated in the presence of natural or synthetic inhibitors. Our results show a significant difference of the inhibitors’ affinity toward hyaluronidase in the presence of PEG. Surprisingly, the presence of the crowding agent results in a loss of the inhibition effect of small polycyclic inhibitors, while larger charged inhibitors were less affected. In this work, CE analyses confirm the importance of mimicking the cellular environment for the discovery and development of reliable inhibitors.

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Fig. 1
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Background electrolyte


Bovine testes hyaluronidase


Corrected peak area


Biotinylated 4-sulfated chondroitin tetrasaccharides


Biotinylated 6-sulfated chondroitin tetrasaccharides






Extracellular matrix


Epigallocatechin gallate


Hyaluronic acid






Incubation buffer


Macromolecular crowding









μeph :

Electrophoretic mobility




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This work has been financially supported by the University of Orléans (France), the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), and the Labex SynOrg (ANR-11-LABX-0029).

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Nasreddine, R., Orlic, L., Al Hamoui Dit Banni, G. et al. Polyethylene glycol crowding effect on hyaluronidase activity monitored by capillary electrophoresis. Anal Bioanal Chem 412, 4195–4207 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-020-02659-9

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  • Capillary electrophoresis
  • Crowding
  • Hyaluronidase activity
  • Inhibitors
  • Polysaccharide