Chemical modification of proteins is gaining importance due to the improvement in properties and the broader range of applications that these protein conjugates have. Once modified, several purification strategies need to be applied to isolate the conjugates of interest. Aqueous two-phase systems (ATPS) are an attractive alternative for the primary recovery of proteins and their conjugates. However, to better understand which biochemical parameters affect in greater degree the partition behavior of these modified proteins in ATPS, it becomes necessary to characterize the partition behavior of different species. In this work, ribonuclease A (RNase A) was selected as a model protein to address the partition behavior of chemically modified proteins in ATPS. Native, mono-PEGylated, Uniblue A, Dabsyl Chloride, and Direct Red 83 chemically modified RNase A's were partitioned in 16 different polyethylene glycol (PEG)–potassium phosphate ATPS. Results suggest that while the effects of system design parameters govern the partition of native RNase A, the behavior of the chemically modified species is more influenced by the physicochemical characteristics of the modifying molecules, that in most cases promote partition toward the top polymer-rich phase with recovery percentages as high as 86%. It has been found that both, the hydrophobicity and molecular weight of the modifying species play a preponderant role in conjugate partition behavior since as hydrophobicity increases partition is promoted towards the PEG-rich phase balancing the effect of the molecular weight of the modifying molecules that tends to shift partition towards the salt rich phase. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29: 378–385, 2013
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