Return to Contents Chapter 27: Amino Acids, Peptides and Proteins Ch 27 contents
Isoelectronic point, pI There are 3 cases to consider.... These amino acids are characterised by two pKas : pKa1 and pKa2 for the carboxylic acid and the amine respectively.
The isoelectronic point will be halfway between, or the average of, these two pKas, i.e.   pI = 1/2 (pKa1 + pKa2). This is most readily appreciated when you realise that at very acidic pH (below pKa1) the amino acid will have an overall +ve charge and at very basic pH (above pKa2 ) the amino acid will have an overall -ve charge.  For the simplest amino acid, glycine, pKa1= 2.34 and pKa2 = 9.6, pI = 5.97.

The other two cases introduce other ionisable groups in the side chain "R" described by a third acid dissociation constant, pKa3 The pI will be at a lower pH because the acidic side chain introduces an "extra" negative charge. So the neutral form exists under more acidic conditions when the extra -ve has been neutralised.  For example, for aspartic acid shown below, the neutral form is dominant between pH 1.88 and 3.65, pI is halfway between these two values, i.e.   pI = 1/2 (pKa1 + pKa3),  so pI = 2.77.

The pI will be at a higher pH because the basic side chain introduces an "extra" positive charge. So the neutral form exists under more basic conditions when the extra +ve has been neutralised.  For example, for histidine, which was discussed on the previous page, the neutral form is dominant between pH 6.00 and 9.17, pI is halfway between these two values, i.e.  pI = 1/2 (pKa2 + pKa3),  so pI = 7.59.
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© Dr. Ian Hunt, Department of Chemistry, University of Calgary