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Temperature and salt controlled tuning of protein clusters...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Soft Matter
Publication Date
Page Numbers
8506 to 8516

The formation of molecular assemblies in protein solutions is of strong interest both from a fundamental viewpoint and for biomedical applications. While ordered and desired protein assemblies are indispensable for some biological functions, undesired protein condensation can induce serious diseases. As a common cofactor, the presence of salt ions is essential for some biological processes involving proteins, and in aqueous suspensions of proteins can also give rise to complex phase diagrams including homogeneous solutions, large aggregates, and dissolution regimes. Here, we systematically study the cluster formation approaching the phase separation in aqueous solutions of the globular protein BSA as a function of temperature (T), the protein concentration (cp) and the concentrations of the trivalent salts YCl3 and LaCl3 (cs). As an important complement to structural, i.e. time-averaged, techniques we employ a dynamical technique that can detect clusters even when they are transient on the order of a few nanoseconds. By employing incoherent neutron spectroscopy, we unambiguously determine the short-time self-diffusion of the protein clusters depending on cp, cs and T. We determine the cluster size in terms of effective hydrodynamic radii as manifested by the cluster center-of-mass diffusion coefficients D. For both salts, we find a simple functional form D(cp, cs, T) in the parameter range explored. The calculated inter-particle attraction strength, determined from the microscopic and short-time diffusive properties of the samples, increases with salt concentration and temperature in the regime investigated and can be linked to the macroscopic behavior of the samples.