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Spatial Structure and Composition of Polysaccharide−Protein Complexes from Small Angle Neutron Scattering

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journal contribution
posted on 08.06.2009, 00:00 by I. Schmidt, F. Cousin, C. Huchon, F. Boué, M. A.V. Axelos
We use small angle neutron scattering (SANS), with an original analysis method, to obtain both the characteristic sizes and the inner composition of lysozyme-pectin complexes depending on the charge density. Lysozyme is a globular protein and pectin a natural anionic semiflexible polysaccharide with a degree of methylation (DM) 0, 43, and 74. For our experimental conditions (buffer ionic strength I = 2.5 10−2 mol/L and pH between 3 and 7), the electrostatic charge of lysozyme is always positive (from 8 to 17, depending on pH). The pectin charge per elementary chain segment is negative and can be varied from almost zero to one through the change of DM and pH. The weight molar ratio of lysozyme on pectin monomers is kept constant. The ratio of negative charge content per volume to positive charge content per volume, −/+, is varied between 10 and 0.007. On a local scale, for all charged pectins, a correlation peak appears at 0.2 Å−1 due to proteins clustering inside the complexes. On a large scale, the complexes appear as formed of spherical globules with a well-defined radius of 10 to 50 nm, containing a few thousands proteins. The volume fraction Φ of organic matter within the globules derived from SANS absolute cross sections is around 0.1. The protein stacking, which occurs inside the globules, is enhanced when pectin is more charged, due to pH or DM. The linear charge density of the pectin determines the size of the globules for pectin chains of comparable molecular weights whether it is controlled by the pH or the DM. The radius of the globules varies between 10 and 50 nm. In conclusion, the structure is driven by electrostatic interactions and not by hydrophobic interactions. The molecular weight also has a large influence on the structure of the complexes because long chains tend to form larger globules. This may be one reason why DM and pH are not completely equivalent in our system, because DM0 has a short mass, but this may not be the only one. For very low pectin charge (−/+ = 0.07), globules do not appear and the scattering signals a gel-like structure. We did not observe any beads-on-a-string structure.