Protein Extraction Into the Bicontinuous Microemulsion Phase of a Water/SDS/Pentanol/Dodecane Winsor-III System: Effect on Nanostructure and Protein Conformation
Hayes, D. G., R. Ye, R. N. Dunlap, M. J. Cuneo, S. V. Pingali, H. M. O'Neill, and V. S. Urban.  2017.  Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, 160: 144–153 (doi 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2017.09.005).

Bicontinuous microemulsions (BμEs), consisting of water and oil nanodomains separated by surfactant monolayers of near-zero curvature, are potentially valuable systems for purification and delivery of biomolecules, for hosting multiphasic biochemical reactions, and as templating media for preparing nanomaterials. We formed Winsor-III systems by mixing aqueous protein and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) solutions with dodecane and 1-pentanol (cosurfactant) to efficiently extract proteins into the middle (BμE) phase. Bovine serum albumin (BSA) and cytochrome c partitioned to the BμE phase at 64% and 81% efficiency, respectively, producing highly concentrated protein solutions (32 and 44 g L−1, respectively), through release of water and oil from the BμEs. Circular dichroism spectroscopic analysis demonstrated that BSA underwent minor secondary structural changes upon incorporation into BμEs, while the secondary structure of cytochrome c and pepsin underwent major changes. Small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) results show that proteins promoted an increase of the interfacial fluidity and surface area per volume for the BμE surfactant monolayers, and that each protein uniquely altered self-assembly in the Winsor-III systems. Cytochrome c partitioned via electrostatic attractions between SDS and the protein’s positively-charged groups, residing near the surfactant head groups of BμE monolayers, where it decreased surfactant packing efficiency. BSA partitioned through formation of SDS-BSA complexes via hydrophobic and electrostatic attractive interactions. As the BSA-SDS ratio increased, complexes’ partitioning favored BμEs over the oil excess phase due to the increased hydrophilicity of the complexes. This study demonstrates the potential utility of BμEs to purify proteins and prepare nanostructured fluids possessing high protein concentration.