Charge-Based Separation of Proteins Using Polyelectrolyte Complexes as Models for Membraneless Organelles

Jéré J. van Lente, Mireille M.A.E. Claessens, Saskia Lindhoud*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
198 Downloads (Pure)


Membraneless organelles are liquid compartments within cells with different solvent properties than the surrounding environment. This difference in solvent properties is thought to result in function-related selective partitioning of proteins. Proteins have also been shown to accumulate in polyelectrolyte complexes, but whether the uptake in these complexes is selective has not been ascertained yet. Here, we show the selective partitioning of two structurally similar but oppositely charged proteins into polyelectrolyte complexes. We demonstrate that these proteins can be separated from a mixture by altering the polyelectrolyte complex composition and released from the complex by lowering the pH. Combined, we demonstrate that polyelectrolyte complexes can separate proteins from a mixture based on protein charge. Besides providing deeper insight into the selective partitioning in membraneless organelles, potential applications for selective biomolecule partitioning in polyelectrolyte complexes include drug delivery or extraction processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3696-3703
Number of pages8
Issue number10
Early online date16 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2019


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