Self-consistent-field calculations of proteinlike incorporations in polyelectrolyte complex micelles

Saskia Lindhoud, Martien A. Cohen Stuart, Willem Norde, Frans A.M. Leermakers

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Self-consistent field theory is applied to model the structure and stability of polyelectrolyte complex micelles with incorporated protein (molten globule) molecules in the core. The electrostatic interactions that drive the micelle formation are mimicked by nearest-neighbor interactions using Flory-Huggins χ parameters. The strong qualitative comparison with experimental data proves that the Flory-Huggins approach is reasonable. The free energy of insertion of a proteinlike molecule into the micelle is nonmonotonic: there is (i) a small repulsion when the protein is inside the corona; the height of the insertion barrier is determined by the local osmotic pressure and the elastic deformation of the core, (ii) a local minimum occurs when the protein molecule is at the core-corona interface; the depth (a few k B T ’s) is related to the interfacial tension at the core-corona interface and (iii) a steep repulsion (several k B T ) when part of the protein molecule is dragged into the core. Hence, the protein molecules reside preferentially at the core-corona interface and the absorption as well as the release of the protein molecules has annealed rather than quenched characteristics. Upon an increase of the ionic strength it is possible to reach a critical micellization ionic (CMI) strength. With increasing ionic strength the aggregation numbers decrease strongly and only few proteins remain associated with the micelles near the CMI.
Original languageEnglish
Article number051406
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical review E: Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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