Effect of convective disturbances induced by g-jitter on the periodic precipitation of lysozyme

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Numerical simulations are carried out to investigate the crystallization process of a protein macromolecular substance under two different conditions: pure diffusive regime and microgravity conditions present on space laboratories. The configuration under investigation consists of a protein reactor and a salt chamber separated by an “interface”. The interface is strictly related to the presence of agarose gel in one of the two chambers. Sedimentation and convection under normal gravity conditions are prevented by the use of gel in the protein chamber (pure diffusive regime). Under microgravity conditions periodic time-dependent accelerations (g-jitter) are taken into account. Novel mathematical models are introduced to simulate the complex phenomena related to protein nucleation and further precipitation (or resolution) according to the concentration distribution and in particular to simulate the motion of the crystals due to g-jitter in the microgravity environment. The numerical results show that gellified lysozyme (crystals “locked” on the matrix of agarose gel) precipitates to produce “spaced deposits”. The crystal formation results modulated in time and in space (Liesegang patterns), due to the non-linear interplay among transport, crystal nucleation and growth. The propagation of the nucleation front is characterized by a wave-like behaviour. In microgravity conditions (without gel), g-jitter effects act modifying the phenomena with respect to the on ground gellified configuration. The role played by the direction of the applied sinusoidal acceleration with respect to the imposed concentration gradient (parallel or perpendicular) is investigated. It has a strong influence on the dynamic behaviour of the depletion zones and on the spatial distribution of the crystals. Accordingly the possibility to obtain better crystals for diffraction analyses is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-56
Number of pages16
JournalMicrogravity Science and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2003


  • convective disturbances
  • g-jitter
  • periodic precipitation
  • lysozyme
  • numerical simulations
  • microgravity
  • macromolecular


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