Ammonium sulfate precipitation

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Ammonium sulfate precipitation is one of the most commonly used methods for large and laboratory scale protein purification and fractionation that can be used to separate proteins by altering their solubility in the presence of a high salt concentration.

Ammonium sulfate is an inorganic salt with a high solubility that disassociates into ammonium (NH4+) and sulfate (SO4 2-) in aqueous solutions.[1] Ammonium sulfate is especially useful as a precipitant because it is highly soluble, stabilizes protein structure, has a relatively low density, is readily available, and is relatively inexpensive.

The solubility of proteins varies according to the ionic strength of the solution, thus according to the salt concentration. At low ion concentrations (<0.5 M), the solubility of proteins increases with increasing salt concentration, an effect termed "salting in". As the salt concentration is further increased, the solubility of the protein begins to decrease. At a sufficiently high ionic strength, the protein will precipitate out of the solution, an effect termed "salting out".[2]

Proteins differ markedly in their solubilities at high ionic strength, therefore, "salting out" is a very useful procedure to assist in the purification of the desired protein. Ammonium sulfate is commonly used for precipitation because of its high solubility, additionally, it forms two ions high in the Hofmeister series. The ammonium sulfate solubility behavior for a protein is usually expressed as a function of the percentage of saturation. A solubility curve can be determined by plotting the log of the experimentally determined solubility, expressed as mg/mL, versus the percentage saturation of ammonium sulfate.[3]

Typically, the ammonium sulfate concentration is increased stepwise, and the precipitated protein is recovered at each stage. This is usually done by adding solid ammonium sulfate; however, calculating the amount of ammonium sulfate that should be added to add to a solution to achieve the desired concentration may be difficult because the addition of ammonium sulfate significantly increases the volume of the solution. The amount of ammonium sulfate that should be added to the solution can be determined from published nomograms or by using an online calculator.[4] Each protein precipitate can be dissolved individually in a standard buffer and assayed to determine the total protein content.

The ammonium sulfate concentration added should be increased to a value that will precipitate most of the protein of interest whilst leaving the maximum amount of protein contaminants still in the solution. The precipitated protein of interest can subsequently be recovered by centrifugation and dissolved in standard buffer to prepare the sample for the next stage of purification.

Ammonium sulfate precipitation is a useful technique as an initial step in protein purification because it enables quick, bulk precipitation of cellular proteins.[5] It is also often employed during the later stages of purification to concentrate protein from dilute solution following procedures such as gel filtration.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pubchem. "AMMONIUM SULFATE | H8N2O4S - PubChem". pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2017-05-05. 
  2. ^ Duong-Ly, Krisna C.; Gabelli, Sandra B. (2014-01-01). Lorsch, Jon, ed. Methods in Enzymology. Laboratory Methods in Enzymology: Protein Part C. 541. Academic Press. pp. 85–94. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-420119-4.00007-0. 
  3. ^ Burgess, Richard R. (2009-01-01). Deutscher, Richard R. Burgess and Murray P., ed. Methods in Enzymology. Guide to Protein Purification, 2nd Edition. 463. Academic Press. pp. 331–342. doi:10.1016/s0076-6879(09)63020-2. 
  4. ^ "Ammonium Sulfate Calculator". EnCor Biotechnology Inc. Retrieved 19 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Burgess, Richard R. (2009-01-01). Deutscher, Richard R. Burgess and Murray P., ed. Methods in Enzymology. Guide to Protein Purification, 2nd Edition. 463. Academic Press. pp. 331–342. doi:10.1016/s0076-6879(09)63020-2.