2017 Hess Lecture in Chemical Engineering
The Molecular Sociology of Proteins
Abraham M. Lenhoff
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Delaware
Protein solutions are ubiquitous in bioprocessing, structural biology and in nature, making it important to understand and predict their physical and thermodynamic properties, including formation of dense phases such as precipitates, crystals, gels and aggregates. The anisotropic shape and chemical character of protein molecules, on which extensive information down to the atomic level is available from X-ray crystallography, add considerable complexity, especially in describing intermolecular interactions and phase behavior – the molecular sociology. In particular, the statistical mechanics of anisotropy, including the contributions of strongly attractive interactions guided by the same mechanisms that give rise to biomolecular recognition, can lead to counterintuitive consequences. This presentation will explore these consequences, with a focus on two systems: the origins of high viscosity in solutions of monoclonal antibodies, and the structure and evolution of amorphous dense phases of proteins, such as precipitates and gels.
Abraham Lenhoff is the Allan P. Colburn Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, where he has been on the faculty since 1984. He earned a Bachelor's degree from the University of Cape Town and Master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin, all in chemical engineering. His research is primarily on application of principles of thermodynamics, transport phenomena, biophysics and colloid science to protein separations and phase behavior, especially chromatography and crystallization.