Polymer Science Faculty Research

Protein Adhesion and Ion Substitution (on/in) to Minerals

Nita Sahai, The University of Akron


Arsenic and pathogenic prion protein-scrapie (PrPsc) are important contaminants which may soil and water for decades, unless they are removed by sorption. Two sorption mechanisms will be discussed, namely the organics (Prp and single aminoacid) adsorption on clay and the arsenic substitution in gypsum. The elucidation of these contrasted mechanisms will be shown to request complementary molecular-mechanical simulations with experimental spectroscopic investigations. As first example, structural studies performed at ILL/ESRF on As-doped gypsum (CaSO4 2H2O) using neutron and X-ray diffraction data and EXAFS were performed to determine how As fits into the bulk of gypsum structure. The combined Rietveld analysis of neutron and X-ray diffraction data shows an expansion of the unit cell volume proportional to the As concentration within the samples. to-sulfate substitution mechanisms were used as simulation starting hypotheses. DFT-based simulations (Mulliken analysis) were used to interpret charge distribution and to show that among the possible mechanisms, a sulphate substitution by either protonated, or fully deprotonated, arsenate ion, only the protonated arsenate substitution could best fit the EXAFS data. In the second example, we used Molecular Dynamics to understand the mechanism of strong binding of the pathogenic PrP peptide with clay mineral surfaces. We modeled only the infectious moiety, PrP92-138, of the whole PrPsc structure, with explicitly solvating water molecules in contact with the cleavage plane of pyrophillite, as a model for montmorillonite without any cationic substitution. Partial residual negative charges on the cleavage plane were balanced with K+ ions. The peptide anchored to the clay surface via up to 10 hydrogen bonds from lysine and histidine residues to oxygen atoms of the siloxane cavities, and a total adsorption energy of 3465 KJ.mol-1 was obtained. Our results were compared to the one obtained by chemical and thermal analysis, 23Na, 1H, 13C solid state NMR and MD computation on sorption of single lysine amino acid on model synthetic Na-montmorillonite. Our data provide further insight about interactions between lysine and montmorillonite which depend strongly on lysine concentration.