• Partitioning;
  • Bioaccumulation;
  • Protein;
  • Hydrophobic organic chemicals;
  • Modeling


Partition coefficients that are used to predict concentrations of hydrophobic organic chemicals in biota (e.g., the bioconcentration factor) often assume that the sorptive capacity of an organism or tissue is adequately represented by its lipid content. In lean organisms and tissues, however, theory suggests that partitioning may be strongly influenced by the sorptive capacity of nonlipid materials, such as protein. Little is known about the sorptive capacity of proteins for hydrophobic organic chemicals, and methods to include proteins in bioaccumulation models do not exist. Here, we present a compilation and meta-analysis of published data to estimate the relative sorptive capacities of animal proteins and lipids for neutral organic chemicals. We found that the estimated sorptive capacity of protein in solid animal tissues ranged from around 1 to 10% that of lipid for compounds with a log octanol/water partition coefficient (KOW) of greater than two. The sorptive capacity of blood protein (albumin) appeared to be substantially higher than this, especially for low-KOW chemicals. For modeling purposes, we recommend estimating the sorptive capacity of animal protein as 5% that of lipid. According to this estimate, the sorptive capacity of an animal or tissue will be dominated by the contribution from protein if the lipid content makes up less than 5% of the dry-weight organic content. In such situations, a consideration of the sorptive capacity of nonlipid constituents, such as protein, will permit more accurate predictions of chemical accumulation and distribution.