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The freeze denaturation of model proteins, LDH, ADH, and catalase, was investigated in absence of cryoprotectants using a microcryostage under well-controlled freezing and thawing rates. Most of the experimental data were obtained from a study using a dilute solution with an enzyme concentration of 0.025 g/l. The dependence of activity recovery of proteins on the freezing and thawing rates showed a reciprocal and independent effect, that is, slow freezing (at a freezing rate about 1 degrees C/min) and fast thawing (at a thawing rate >10 degrees C/min) produced higher activity recovery, whereas fast freezing with slow thawing resulted in more severe damage to proteins. With minimizing the freezing concentration and pH change of buffer solution by using a potassium phosphate buffer, this phenomenon could be ascribed to surface-induced denaturation during freezing and thawing process. Upon the fast freezing (e.g., when the freezing rate >20 degrees C/min), small ice crystals and a relatively large surface area of ice-liquid interface are formed, which increases the exposure of protein molecules to the ice-liquid interface and hence increases the damage to the proteins. During thawing, additional damage to proteins is caused by recrystallization process. Recrystallization exerts additional interfacial tension or shear on the entrapped proteins and hence causes additional damage to the latter. When buffer solutes participated during freezing, the activity recovery of proteins after freezing and thawing decreased due to the change of buffer solution pH during freezing. However, the patterns of the dependence on freezing and thawing rates of activity recovery did not change except for that at extreme low freezing rates (<0.5 degrees C/min). The results exhibited that the freezing damage of protein in aqueous solutions could be reduced by changing the buffer type and composition and by optimizing the freezing-thawing protocol.

Original publication




Journal article


Biotechnol Bioeng

Publication Date





684 - 690


Alcohol Dehydrogenase, Buffers, Catalase, Cryopreservation, Drug Stability, Drug Storage, Enzyme Activation, Enzyme Stability, Freezing, Hot Temperature, L-Lactate Dehydrogenase, Protein Conformation, Protein Denaturation, Proteins, Solutions, Temperature, Water