Design of a new switchable biosurfactant protein: from folding to function

July 28, 2017


Design of a new switchable biosurfactant protein: from folding to function


Chun-Xia Zhao, Mirjana Dimitrijev Dwyer, Lei Yu, Anton Peter Jacob Middelberg






A new anionic biosurfactant protein (SP16) has been designed capable of tuning foaming behaviour by pH or salt. This biosurfactant exhibits unique foaming behaviour with high sensitivity to pH. A good level of foaming was observed at pH 2 but not at pH 3. A further increase by one pH unit to pH 4 restored good foaming. At pH 5-8, SP16 again showed low foaming propensity, while the presence of salt (NaCl) was able to restore foaming again. Interfacial tension and circular dichroism investigations revealed the foaming control mechanism. The high negative charge (-16.6) at pH 6 and above restricted the ability of SP16 to fold into an α-helical conformation and also restricted surface activity. For pH 5 (-13.6), even though SP16 folds in bulk to give α-helical structure, the high charge inhibited adsorption at the air-water interface, resulting in a significant lag time of about 150-200 sec to achieve a decrease in interfacial tension. In contrast to its low foaming behaviour at pH 5-8, the presence of salt (NaCl) was found to effectively screen negative charge, thus leading to its folding and a decrease of interfacial tension. This new design offers a new strategy to control foaming behaviour, and elaborates a clear link between charge, structure and interfacial activity for biosurfactants.




Circular dichroism, Secondary structure, Chemical stability, Biochemistry