Study of the polyribosyl-ribitol-phosphate precipitation mechanism by salts and organic solvents

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Precipitation has been widely applied to purification and fractionation of biological macromolecules. Several physical-chemical factors contribute to the destabilization of those solutions, such as the nature of solvent employed, presence of salts, temperature, and concentration of the macromolecule. In the case of charged biopolymers, electrostatic forces are the major contributors to their stability in solution. However, the role of each variable and the exact mechanism of precipitation are not completely understood yet. The aim of this work was to study the precipitation of polyribosyl-ribitol-phosphate (PRP, a linear homogeneous anionic biopolymer) in presence of salts and non-solvents, in order to contribute to the elucidation of its precipitation mechanism. The solvents tested (acetone, ethanol, and isopropanol) presented distinct dielectric constants. The salts used (NH4Cl, NaCl, KCl, MgCl2, and CaCl2) differ by their cations. For each salt concentration, the solvent fraction that induces precipitation was identified and the dielectric constant of the bulk solution was calculated. Precipitation always occurred at well-defined combinations of solvents and salts. At low concentration of monovalent salts, there was a linear correlation between the logarithm of the salt concentration and the inverse of the medium dielectric constant at a defined precipitation point. This is a strong indication that the stability of the solution depends almost exclusively on the balance of electrostatic forces. This behavior is compatible with the DLVO modeling of colloidal systems. When divalent salts were used, low concentrations of the counterion were sufficient to induce precipitation, due to a phenomenon called ionic condensation. Apparently, PRP precipitates when around 90% of its charges are neutralized, value that is similar to charge neutralization for DNA precipitation.
Simas RG, Takagi M, Miranda EA. Study of the polyribosyl-ribitol-phosphate precipitation mechanism by salts and organic solvents. Int. J. Biol. Macromol.. 2019 Nov;140:102-108. doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2019.08.110.
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