• pH-sensitive gels;
  • polyelectrolyte complex;
  • protein/polyelectrolyte complex;
  • protein entrapment;
  • pH-sensitive release


Polyanion/gelatin complexes including poly(methacrylic acid) (PMAA)/gelatin, poly(acrylic acid) (PAA)/gelatin, and heparin/gelatin are investigated as pH-sensitive gels for controlled protein release. Polyanions can interact with gelatin and form amorphous precipitates within a certain pH range, which is affected by the polyanion nature. The entrapment efficiency of model proteins (myoglobin, cytochrome c, and pepsin) into the complexes is rather high (>80%). By using a modified colloid titration that mixes a solution of gelatin and model proteins titrated with polyanion solution, myoglobin and cytochrome c are found to interact with polyanions by electrostatic forces at low pH, while pepsin either interacts with the polyanion when the pH is below its isoelectric point (IEP) or complexes with gelatin at a pH above IEPpepsin. At pH 7.4 all the complexes dissociate and proteins are rapidly released within a few hours. The complexes are stable and the proteins are retained within a certain pH range, which is related to the polyanion type (e.g., 5.0–2.0 for PMAA, 4.6–1.2 for PAA, and <4.3 for heparin). The three processes of complex formation, dissociation, and protein release have a good correlation. In addition, the protein release transition takes place within a rather narrow pH range (ca. 0.5 units) and the protein nature has little effect on the protein release profile. The high protein entrapment efficiency and good pH sensitivity of the protein release can be mainly attributed to the electrostatic attractive interactions between proteins and polyanion or gelatin. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci 80: 1416–1425, 2001