Journal of colloid and interface science

Effect of added alpha-lactalbumin protein on the phase behavior of AOT-brine-isooctane systems.

PMID 16256563


We have found that the presence of <1 wt% of the globular protein alpha-lactalbumin has a significant impact on the equilibrium phase behavior of dilute sodium bis(ethylhexyl) sulfosuccinate (AOT)/brine/isooctane systems. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), Karl Fischer titration, and ultraviolet spectroscopy were used to determine the surfactant, oil, water, and protein content of the organic and aqueous phases as a function of the total surfactant and protein present. As a small amount of alpha-lactalbumin is added to the mixture, there is a substantial increase (up to 80%) in the maximum water solubility in the water-in-oil microemulsion phase. Dynamic light scattering measurements indicate that this increase is due to a decrease in the magnitude of the (negative) spontaneous curvature of the surfactant monolayer, as droplets swell in size. As the molar ratio of alpha-lactalbumin to AOT surpasses approximately 1:300, the partitioning of water, protein, and surfactant shifts to the excess aqueous phase, where soluble assemblies with positive curvature are detected by dynamic light scattering. Significant amounts of isooctane are solubilized in these aggregates, consistent with the formation of oil-in-water microemulsion droplets. Circular dichroism studies showed that the tertiary structure of the protein in the microemulsion is disrupted while the secondary structure is increased. In light of these findings, the protein most likely expands to a molten-globule type conformation in the AOT interfacial environment, but does not substantially unfold to become an extended chain.

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Sulfosuccinic acid solution, 70 wt. % in H2O