The structure of the adsorbing layers of native and denatured proteins (fibrinogen, γ-immunoglobulin, albumin, and lysozyme) was studied on hydrophilic TiO2 and hydrophobic Teflon-AF surfaces using the quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation and optical waveguide lightmode spectroscopy techniques. The density and the refractive index of the adsorbing protein layers could be determined from the complementary information provided by the two in situ instruments. The observed density and refractive index changes during the protein-adsorption process indicated the presence of conformational changes (e.g., partial unfolding) in general, especially upon contact with the hydrophobic surface. The structure of the formed layers was found to depend on the size of the proteins and on the experimental conditions. On the TiO2 surface smaller proteins formed a denser layer than larger ones and the layer of unfolded proteins was less dense than that adsorbed from the native conformation. The hydrophobic surface induced denaturation and resulted in the formation of thin compact protein films of albumin and lysozyme. A linear correlation was found between the quartz crystal microbalance measured dissipation factor and the total water content of the layer, suggesting the existence of a dissipative process that is related to the solvent molecules present inside the adsorbed protein layer. Our measurements indicated that water and solvent molecules not only influence the 3D structure of proteins in solution but also play a crucial role in their adsorption onto surfaces.
Author: Janos Vörös