Dynamic light scattering study of an amelogenin gel-like matrix in vitro

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Amelogenin self-assembly is critical for the structural organization of apatite crystals during enamel mineralization. The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of temperature and protein concentration on the aggregation of amelogenin nanospheres at high protein concentrations (> 4.4 mg ml−1) in order to obtain an insight into the mechanism of amelogenin self-assembly to form higher-order structures. Amelogenins were extracted from enamel scrapings of unerupted mandibular pig molars. The dynamics of protein solutions were measured using dynamic light scattering (DLS) as a function of temperature and at acidic pH. At pH 4–5.5, three kinds of particles were observed, ranging in size from 3 to 80 nm. At pH 6, heating the solution above ≈ 30°C resulted in a drastic change in the solution transparency, from clear to opaque. Low pH showed no aggregation effect, whilst solutions at a slightly acidic pH exhibited diffusion dynamics associated with the onset of aggregation. In addition, at the same temperature range, the hydrodynamic radii of the aggregates increased drastically, by almost one order of magnitude. These observations support the view that hydrophobic interactions are the primary driving force for the pH- and temperature-sensitive self-assembly of amelogenin particles in a ‘gel-like’ matrix. The trend of self-assembly in a ‘gel-like matrix’ is similar to that in solution.

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