Influence of Oligoguluronates on Alginate Gelation, Kinetics, and Polymer Organization

Biomacromolecules. 2007 Aug;8(8):2388-97. doi: 10.1021/bm070208d. Epub 2007 Jun 28.


Structural polysaccharides of the alginate family form gels in aqueous Ca2+-containing solutions by lateral association of chain segments. The effect of adding oligomers of alpha-l-guluronic acid (G blocks) to gelling solutions of alginate was investigated using rheology and atomic force microscopy (AFM). Ca-alginate gels were prepared by in situ release of Ca2+. The gel strength increased with increasing level of calcium saturation of the alginate and decreased with increasing amount of free G blocks. The presence of free G blocks also led to an increased gelation time. The gel point and fractal dimensionalities of the gels were determined based on the rheological characterization. Without added free G blocks the fractal dimension of the gels increased from df = 2.14 to df = 2.46 when increasing [Ca2+] from 10 to 20 mM. This increase was suggested to arise from an increased junction zone multiplicity induced by the increased concentration of calcium ions. In the presence of free G blocks (G block/alginate = 1/1) the fractal dimension increased from 2.14 to 2.29 at 10 mM Ca2+, whereas there was no significant change associated with addition of G blocks at 20 mM Ca2+. These observations indicate that free G blocks are involved in calcium-mediated bonds formed between guluronic acid sequences within the polymeric alginates. Thus, the added oligoguluronate competes with the alginate chains for the calcium ions. The gels and pregel situations close to the gel point were also studied using AFM. The AFM topographs indicated that in situations of low calcium saturation microgels a few hundred nanometers in diameter develop in solution. In situations of higher calcium saturation lateral association of a number of alginate chains are occurring, giving ordered fiber-like structures. These results show that G blocks can be used as modulators of gelation kinetics as well as local network structure formation and equilibrium properties in alginate gels.

MeSH terms

  • Alginates / chemistry*
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Gels
  • Glucuronic Acid / chemistry
  • Hexuronic Acids / chemistry
  • Kinetics
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phase Transition
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / chemistry*


  • Alginates
  • Gels
  • Hexuronic Acids
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • polyguluronic acid
  • Glucuronic Acid
  • Calcium