Denaturation of α-lactalbumin and myoglobin by the anionic biosurfactant rhamnolipid

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  • Kell K Andersen, iNANO, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Centre for Insoluble Protein Structures (inSPIN), Aarhus University, Gustav Wieds Vej 14, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Electronic address: kell.andersen@inano.au.dk., Denmark
  • Daniel Otzen

Glycolipid biosurfactants (GBS) are promising environmentally friendly alternatives to chemical surfactants. Surfactants interact with proteins in many applications, often leading to significant changes in protein properties. Given GBS' marked difference in structure compared to traditional chemical surfactants, it is of interest to investigate their impact on protein structure and stability. Here we combine spectroscopic and calorimetric studies to analyze the interactions between the anionic GBS rhamnolipid (RL) and two model proteins α-lactalbumin in the Ca(2+)-free apo-form (αLA) and myoglobin (Mb), whose interactions with traditional surfactants are well known. RL denatures αLA at sub-cmc concentrations (0.1-1mM) while Mb is only denatured above the cmc, i.e. in the presence of RL micelles. Denaturation leads to increased α-helicity, similar to the effect of SDS. The proteins bind approximately the same amount of RL by weight as SDS. However, RL employs a denaturation mechanism which combines features from non-ionic surfactants (very slow unfolding kinetics and few unfolding steps) with those of SDS (unfolding below the cmc in the case of αLA and the ability to unfold stable proteins in the case of Mb). We ascribe these features to RL's weakly acidic carboxylic head group and complex hydrophobic tail, which lead to a low cmc and low protein affinity. These features restrict the concentration range where RL monomers can bind and denature proteins while still allowing micelles to bind and denature to a significant extent.

Original languageEnglish
JournalB B A - Bioenergetics
Volume1844
Issue12
Pages (from-to)2338-2345
Number of pages8
ISSN0006-3002
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

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