Binary-liquid phase separation of lens protein solutions

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Jul 1;88(13):5660-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.88.13.5660.


We have determined the coexistence curves (plots of phase-separation temperature T versus protein concentration C) for aqueous solutions of purified calf lens proteins. The proteins studied, calf gamma IIIa-, gamma IIIb-, and gamma IVa-crystallin, have very similar amino acid sequences and three-dimensional structures. Both ascending and descending limbs of the coexistence curves were measured. We find that the coexistence curves for each of these proteins and for gamma II-crystallin can be fit, near the critical point, to the function /(Cc-C)/Cc/ = A [(Tc - T)/Tc]beta, where beta = 0.325, Cc is the critical protein concentration in mg/ml, Tc is the critical temperature for phase separation in K, and A is a parameter that characterizes the width of the coexistence curve. We find that A and Cc are approximately the same for all four coexistence curves (A = 2.6 +/- 0.1, Cc = 289 +/- 20 mg/ml), but that Tc is not the same. For gamma II- and gamma IIIb-crystallin, Tc approximately 5 degrees C, whereas for gamma IIIa- and gamma IVa-crystallin, Tc approximately 38 degrees C. By comparing the published protein sequences for calf, rat, and human gamma-crystallins, we postulate that a few key amino acid residues account for the division of gamma-crystallins into low-Tc and high-Tc groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry, Physical
  • Crystallins / chemistry*
  • Crystallins / isolation & purification
  • Crystallography
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Solutions
  • Temperature


  • Crystallins
  • Solutions