Probing protein-induced membrane fouling with in-situ attenuated total reflectance fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and multivariate curve resolution-alternating least squares.Water Res. 2020 Jun 17; 183:116052.WR
Proteins are one of the major contributors to membrane fouling. The interaction between proteins and the polymer membrane at the molecular level is essential for the alleviation/prevention of membrane fouling, but remains unclear. In this work, time-dependent in-situ attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy is applied to investigate the interaction process between two model proteins, bovine serum albumin and lysozyme, and the poly(vinylidene fluoride) (PVDF) membrane. Multivariate curve resolution-alternating least squares is integrated with two-dimensional correlation spectroscopy analysis to resolve the membrane-induced conformational changes of proteins. The multivariate curve resolution-alternating least squares analysis reveals a two-step process in the protein-membrane interaction and provides the kinetics of the conformational transition, which aids the segmentation of the spectral dataset. By applying two-dimensional correlation spectroscopy analysis to different groups of the time-dependent spectra, the sequential order of the secondary structural changes of proteins is determined. The proteins initially undergo unfolding transition to a more open, less structured state, which appears to be triggered by the hydrophobic membrane surface. Afterwards, the proteins become aggregated with the high anti-parallel β-sheet content, aggravating the membrane fouling. The conformational transition process of proteins was also confirmed by the atomic force microscopic images and quartz crystal microbalance measurement. Overall, this work provides an in-depth understanding of the interaction between proteins and the membrane surface, which is helpful for the development of membrane anti-fouling strategies.