The myriad applications of quantitative light scattering in the biological and biopharmaceutical sciences


Daniel Some, Ph.D.- March 28, 2016

Actually too numerous to cover in a single publication, but Allen Minton of the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Genetics in NIH’s National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has done an admirable job of critically addressing quite a few. His review article, “Recent applications of light scattering measurement in the biological and biopharmaceutical sciences,” appears in Analytical Biochemistry 501 (2016) pp. 4-22.

The article provides introductory material on multi-angle light scattering (MALS), dynamic light scattering (DLS) and electrophoretic light scattering (ELS) in these fields, then goes on to tackle several examples from the fields of protein characterization, biopharmaceutical development, and other life science research. Minton makes very clear the benefits of light scattering as an analytical toolkit for determine unambiguously the native oligomerization, conjugation and aggregation states of proteins and other biomacromolecules and vesicles. Protein-protein interactions are also elucidated by light scattering, characterizing complex formation and dynamic equilibria, as well as practical aspects of protein interactions relevant to drug development such as conformational and colloidal stability.

In addition to the specific examples covered, the article includes extensive tables citing dozens of recent publications that utilize light scattering for primary or supporting data. The tables offer brief descriptions highlighting the specific contributions of light scattering to the research carried out. These tables are particularly helpful to anyone who might wish to delve deeper into understanding the uses of light scattering, since each article may present results from many different biophysical and bioanalytical techniques to support key results–a quick perusal may not reveal the full impact of the light scattering analyses.

In this work, Minton has done great service to the biophysical and analytical biochemistry communities, edifying neophytes and experienced scientists alike to the utility of multi-angle, dynamic and electrophoretic light scattering in their studies. His critiques and guidelines for practitioners of light scattering can certainly help improve the quality of work and publications that make use of these techniques, if taken to heart. Recommended reading for all who need a better understanding of their biomacromolecules.