Insight into the Binding Mechanisms of Quartz-Selective Peptides: Toward Greener Flotation Processes

AA Sahraei and BM Bohorquez and D Tremblay and S Moineau and A Garnier and F Larachi and P Lague, ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.3c01275

Mining practices, chiefly froth flotation, are being critically reassessed to replace their use of biohazardous chemical reagents in favor of biofriendly alternatives as a path toward green processes. In this regard, this study aimed at evaluating the interactions of peptides, as potential floatation collectors, with quartz using phage display and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Quartz-selective peptide sequences were initially identified by phage display at pH = 9 and further modeled by a robust simulation scheme combining classical MD, replica exchange MD, and steered MD calculations. Our residue- specific analyses of the peptides revealed that positively charged arginine and lysine residues were favorably attracted by the quartz surface at basic pH. The negatively charged residues at pH 9 (i.e., aspartic acid and glutamic acid) further showed affinity toward the quartz surface through electrostatic interactions with the positively charged surface-bound Na+ ions. The best-binding heptapeptide combinations, however, contained both positively and negatively charged residues in their composition. The flexibility of peptide chains was also shown to directly affect the adsorption behavior of the peptide. While attractive intrapeptide interactions were dominated by a weak peptide-quartz binding, the repulsive self interactions in the peptides improved the binding propensity to the quartz surface. Our results showed that MD simulations are fully capable of revealing mechanistic details of peptide adsorption to inorganic surfaces and are an invaluable tool to accelerate the rational design of peptide sequences for mineral processing applications.

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