Alkaloid toxicities negatively impact livestock health and production. To assess alkaloid occurrences, adsorbent technologies may offer effective means to their extraction and isolation from a complex feed matrix. In this study, molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) were synthesized and evaluated for their specificity of binding to various ergot alkaloids. Co-polymers of styrene and hydroxyethyl methacrylate were synthesized in the absence or presence of an ergotamine (ETA) template, yielding non-imprinted polymer (NIP) and molecularly imprinted polymer (MIP), respectively. The influence of parameters such as pH, temperature, and initial concentration on the adsorption of ergot alkaloids was evaluated along with their application as solid phase extraction materials. Chemical and morphological properties were characterized. Adsorption was generally greater for MIP compared to NIP. Cross-reactivity with related alkaloids existed due to similarities in structure and functional groups and was dependent on the type and concentration of alkaloid and polymer type (alkaloid type × concentration × product; P < 0.05). The pH of the medium had no influence on the binding properties of polymers toward ETA within a pH range of 2–10. Binding was independent of temperature between 36 and 42 °C. When kinetics of adsorption were evaluated, the Langmuir isotherm had a better fit (R2 > 0.95) to adsorption equilibrium data than the Freundlich equation. The maximum amounts adsorbed (Qo) from the Langmuir model were 8.68 and 7.55 μM/g for MIP and NIP, respectively. Fourier transform infrared, scanning and tandem electron microscopy, and Brunauer–Emmett–Teller analysis confirmed a highly porous MIP structure with a greater surface area compared to NIP. Binding characteristics evaluated with computational strategy using molecular docking experiments and in vitro in a complex media (rumen fluid) indicated a stronger ETA adsorption by the tested composition selected among other polymeric materials and affinity of MIP compared with NIP. This study suggested the possible utility of MIP as a solid phase extraction sorbent for applications in analytical chemistry or sensing devices tailored to track ergot alkaloid incidence and the fate of those alkaloids in complex ruminal digestive samples.

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Published in ACS Omega, v. 6, issue 45.

Copyright © 2021 The Authors

This article is published with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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This work was funded and co-supported by Alltech Inc. and the University of Kentucky through the Alltech-UKY Research Alliance Programs.