Unraveling How Ethanol-Induced Conformational Changes Affect BSA Protein Adsorption onto Silica Surfaces

July 11, 2020

Protein adsorption at solid-liquid interfaces is highly relevant to a wide range of applications such as biosensors, drug delivery, and pharmaceuticals. Understanding how protein conformation in bulk solution impacts adsorption behavior is fundamentally important and could also lead to the development of improved protein-based coatings. To date, relevant studies have been conducted in aqueous solutions while it remains largely unknown how organic solvents and more specifically solvent-induced conformational changes might influence protein adsorption. Herein, using the quartz crystal microbalance-dissipation (QCM-D) and localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) techniques, we systematically investigated the real-time adsorption behavior of bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein onto silica surfaces in different water-ethanol mixtures ranging from 0 to 60% (v/v) ethanol. The results showed that there was greater protein adsorption at higher ethanol fractions in the 10-30% range, while more complex adsorption profiles were observed in the 40-60% range. The combination of QCM-D and LSPR measurements led us to further identify specific cases in water-ethanol mixtures where washing steps caused densification of the adsorbed protein layer as opposed to typical desorption of weakly adsorbed molecules in aqueous conditions. We discuss mechanistic factors that drive these overall adsorption trends by taking into account how ethanol fraction affects BSA conformation in bulk solution. Together, our findings demonstrate that BSA proteins can adsorb onto silica surfaces across a wide range of water-ethanol mixture conditions while specific adsorption profiles depended on the ethanol fraction in a manner closely linked to solution-phase conformational properties.


Jia Ying Brenda Tan, Bo Kyeong Yoon, Gamaliel Junren Ma, Tun Naw Sut, Nam-Joon Cho, and Joshua A. Jackman

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