Small angle X-ray scattering and molecular dynamic simulations provide molecular insight for stability of recombinant human transferrin

Alina Kulakova, Sowmya Indrakumar, Pernille Sønderby, Lorenzo Gentiluomo, Werner Streicher, Dierk Roessner, Wolfgang Frieß, Günther H.J. Peters, Pernille Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Transferrin is an attractive candidate for drug delivery due to its ability to cross the blood brain barrier. However, in order to be able to use it for therapeutic purposes, it is important to investigate how its stability depends on different formulation conditions. Combining high-throughput thermal and chemical denaturation studies with small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, it was possible to connect the stability of transferrin with its conformational changes. Lowering pH induces opening of the transferrin N-lobe, which results in a negative effect on the stability. Presence of NaCl or arginine at low pH enhances the opening and has a negative impact on the overall protein stability. Statement of Significance: Protein-based therapeutics have become an essential part of medical treatment. They are highly specific, have high affinity and fewer off-target effects. However, stabilization of proteins is critical, time-consuming, and expensive, and it is not yet possible to predict the behavior of proteins under different conditions. The current work is focused on a molecular understanding of the stability of human serum transferrin; a protein which is abundant in blood serum, may pass the blood brain barrier and therefore with high potential in drug delivery. Combination of high throughput unfolding techniques and structural studies, using small angle X-ray scattering and molecular dynamic simulations, allows us to understand the behavior of transferrin on a molecular level.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100017
JournalJournal of Structural Biology: X
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Transferin
  • Stability
  • Formulation
  • Small angle X-ray scattering
  • Molecular dynamics


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