Improvement on the modified Lowry method against interference of divalent cations in soluble protein measurement

Yue Xiao Shen, Kang Xiao, Peng Liang, Yi Wei Ma, Xia Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


This paper systematically investigated the interference of calcium and magnesium in protein measurement with a modified Lowry method first proposed by Frølund et al. (Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 43:755-761, 1995). This interference has in the past been largely ignored resulting in variable and unreliable results when applied to natural water matrices. We discovered significant formation of calcium and magnesium precipitates that lead to a decline in light absorbance at 750 nm during protein determination. Underestimation of protein concentration (sometimes even yielding negative concentrations) and low experiment reproducibility were demonstrated at high concentrations of divalent cations (e.g., [Ca2+] over 1 mmolL-1). To eliminate interference from calcium and magnesium, two pretreatment strategies were established based on cation exchange and dialysis. These pretreatments were convenient and were found to be highly effective in removing calcium and magnesium in protein samples. By using the modified Lowry method with these pretreatments, proteins in standard solutions and in wastewater samples were successfully quantified with good reliability and reproducibility. In addition, we demonstrated that simultaneous quantification of humic substances with the modified Lowry method was not affected by the two pretreatments. These approaches are expected to be applicable to protein and humic substance determination in different research fields, in cases where the modified Lowry method is sensitive to divalent cation concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4167-4178
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2013


  • Cation exchange
  • Dialysis
  • Divalent cations
  • Interference
  • The modified lowry method


Dive into the research topics of 'Improvement on the modified Lowry method against interference of divalent cations in soluble protein measurement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this