Proteins are commonly encapsulated in alginate gels for drug delivery and tissue-engineering applications. However, there is limited knowledge of how encapsulation impacts intrinsic protein properties such as folding stability or unfolding kinetics. Here, we use fast relaxation imaging (FReI) to image protein unfolding in situ in alginate hydrogels after applying a temperature jump. Based on changes in the Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) response of FRET-labeled phosphoglycerate kinase (PGK), we report the quantitative impact of multiple alginate hydrogel concentrations on protein stability and folding dynamics. The gels stabilize PGK by increasing its melting temperature up to 18.4 °C, and the stabilization follows a nonmonotonic dependence on the alginate density. In situ kinetic measurements also reveal that PGK deviates more from two-state folding behavior in denser gels and that the gel decreases the unfolding rate and accelerates the folding rate of PGK, compared to buffer. Phi-value analysis suggests that the folding transition state of an encapsulated protein is structurally similar to that of folded protein. This work reveals both beneficial and negative impacts of gel encapsulation on protein folding, as well as potential mechanisms contributing to altered stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5245-5254
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 13 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Biomaterials


Dive into the research topics of 'Protein Folding Stability and Kinetics in Alginate Hydrogels'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this