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The liquid protein phase in crystallization: a case study—intact immunoglobulins

  • Author(s): Kuznetsov, Yurii G
  • Malkin, Alexander J
  • McPherson, Alexander
  • et al.

A common observation by protein chemists has been the appearance, for many proteins in aqueous solutions, of oil like droplets, or in more extreme cases the formation of a second oil like phase. These may accompany the formation of precipitate in "salting out" or "salting in' procedures, but more commonly appear in place of any precipitate. Such phase separations also occur, with even greater frequency, in the presence of polymeric precipitants such as polyethyleneglycol (PEG). In general the appearance of a second liquid phase has been taken as indicative of protein aggregation, though an aggregate state distinctly different from that characteristic of amorphous precipitate. While the latter is thought to be composed of linear and branched assemblies, polymers of a sort, the oil phase suggests a more compact, three-dimensional, but fluid state. An important property of an alternate, fluid phase is that it can mediate transitions between other states, for example, between protein molecules free in solution and protein molecules immobilized in amorphous precipitate or crystals. The "liquid protein" phase can be readily observed in many crystallization experiments either prior to the appearance of visible crystals, or directly participating in the crystal growth process. In some cases the relationship between the liquid phase and developing crystals is intimate. Crystals grow directly from the liquid phase, or appear only after the visible formation of the liquid phase. We describe here our experience with a class of macromolecules, immunoglobulins, and particularly IDEC-151, an IgG specific for CD4 on human lymphocytes. This protein has been crystallized from a Jeffamine-LiSO4 mother liquor and, its crystallization illustrates many of the features associated with the liquid protein, or protein rich phase. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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