Self-assembly of melanin studied by laser light scattering

Bridelli, M.G.

Biophysical Chemistry 73(3): 227-239


ISSN/ISBN: 0301-4622
PMID: 17029729
DOI: 10.1016/s0301-4622(98)00148-3
Accession: 050274815

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The unknown molecular weight and chemical structure of melanin place the study of these pigments outside the range of the classical biochemical techniques; thus in this paper the problem of characterizing these heterogeneous biopolymers was approached by means of light scattering techniques, static and dynamic. The static technique allowed us to identify the macromolecular properties (MW and R(g)(2)(1/2)) of melanin extracted from sepia inksac and of two synthetic analogues: L-Dopa melanin obtained by autooxidation and by enzymatic oxidation by Tyrosinase. By dynamic light scattering (DLS), the hydrodynamic radius R(h) was measured to monitor the temporal behaviour of the polymerization and aggregation processes and R(h) variation by changing the chemical constraints of the polymerization medium, such as pH and ionic strength. The fractal dimension d of the aggregates of melanin, both natural and synthetic, in the past only recognized during the aggregation of the synthetic one by lowering the pH of the medium, was a useful parameter to further investigate and compare the structure of melanin granules of differing origins, revealing for the natural sample, a structure with clusters that are spherical, not largely hydrated and self-assembled, following a reaction limited aggregation kinetics (d=2.38).