Electrode Surface Potential-Driven Protein Adsorption and Desorption through Modulation of Electrostatic, van der Waals, and Hydration Interactions

Fritz, P.A.; Bera, B.; Berg, J. van den; Visser, I.; Kleijn, J.M.; Boom, R.M.; Schroën, C.G.P.H.


When proteins in aqueous solutions are exposed to solid substrates, they adsorb due to the dynamic interplay of electrostatic, van der Waals, and hydration interactions and do so in a rather irreversible fashion, which makes protein recovery troublesome. Here, we use a gold electrode as the solid substrate and modulate the surface potential to systematically induce protein adsorption as well as partial desorption. We use different methods such as surface plasmon resonance, atomic force microscopy, and electrowetting and show that biasing the electrode to more negative potentials (by -0.4 V compared to the open-circuit potential at pH 6) results in an increased adsorption barrier of 6 kJ mol-1 for the negatively charged protein β-lactoglobulin. Further, we clearly demonstrate that this is due to an increased double layer potential of -0.06 V and an increase in hydration repulsion. This indicates that an electric potential can directly influence surface interactions and thus induce partial β-lactoglobulin desorption. These observations can be the basis for biosensors as well as separation technologies that use only one trigger to steer protein ad- and desorption, which is low in energy requirement and does not generate large waste streams, as is the case for standard protein separation technologies.