Convective-diffusive transport in protein crystal growth

Academic Article


  • Particular interest in the role of convection in protein crystallization has arisen since some protein single crystals of improved structural quality have been obtained under reduced gravity conditions. We have numerically modeled the time-dependent diffusive-convective transport in an isothermal protein crystal growth system at standard and zero gravity (1 g and 0 g). In the 2D model used, a rectangular crystal of fixed dimensions 400 μm × 600 μm is positioned at the bottom of a 1 mm high and 6 mm wide growth cell. The aqueous solution contains protein and precipitant. For the dependence of the crystal growth rate on interfacial supersaturation, experimental data for lysozyme are used. The repartitioning of water and precipitant at the growing interface is based on experimental segregation data for lysozyme: NaCl, and on complete rejection for a fictitious system in which lysozyme and precipitant have the same diffusivity. The results show that even in the small cell employed, protein concentration nonuniformities and gravity-driven solutal convection can be significant. The calculated convection velocities are of the same order of magnitude as those found in earlier experiments. As expected, convective transport enhances the growth rates. However, even when diffusion dominates mass transport, i.e. at 0 g, lysozyme crystal growth remains kinetically limited. Irrespective of the diffusivity of the precipitant, due to the low growth rates, the precipitant distribution in the solution remains rather uniform even at 0 g, unless strong coupling between precipitant and protein fluxes is assumed. The salt distribution in the crystal is predicted to be non-uniform at both 1 g and 0 g, as a consequence of protein depletion in the solution. © 1995.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Lin H; Rosenberger F; Alexander JID; Nadarajah A
  • Start Page

  • 153
  • End Page

  • 162
  • Volume

  • 151
  • Issue

  • 1-2