Field-flow fractionation for molecular-interaction studies of labile and complex systems: A critical review

Iro K. Ventouri*, Susanne Loeber, Govert W. Somsen, Peter J. Schoenmakers, Alina Astefanei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4) has attracted considerable attention as a size-based separation technique, due to its mild separation conditions, broad working range (from approximately 103 to 109 Da molecular mass or from 1 nm to 1 μm particle diameter), and versatility. AF4 is primarily being used to measure particle size, polydispersity, and physical stability of various systems, such as (bio)-macromolecules and nanoparticles. In comparison with size-exclusion chromatography (packed column), AF4 (open channel) allows separation while preserving labile structures. Monitoring of interactions between different compounds and in very complex matrices is possible. Preservation of the structure and correlation of structural characteristics with activity and functionality can bolster the development of new therapeutic strategies for diseases and new materials with improved properties. In this review, a detailed overview is presented of developments in AF4 for interaction studies between various systems, such as protein-protein, polymer-polymer, nanoparticle-drug, and nanoparticle-protein. The prospects and obstacles for AF4, and other less-commonly used types of FFF, for studying interactions within complex and fragile systems are covered. Coupling AF4 to a variety of detection systems can greatly contribute to the understanding of the interaction/association processes and provide information on the interaction kinetics. This review is intended to provide comprehensive documentation on the types of information (structural, morphological, chemical) on molecular interactions that can be retrieved by AF4.

Original languageEnglish
Article number339396
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Early online date27 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Iro K. Ventouri acknowledges the HOSAna project, which is funded by the Dutch Research Council ( NWO ) in the framework of the Programmatic Technology Area PTA-COAST4 of the Fund New Chemical Innovations (project nr. 053.21.117). Noor Abdulhussain (University of Amsterdam) is acknowledged for fruitful discussions and helpful advice. Florian Meier (Postnova Analytics) is acknowledged for his valuable insights and advice.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Aggregation
  • Drug encapsulation
  • Nanoparticle interactions
  • Polymer association
  • Polymer-protein conjugation
  • Protein corona
  • Protein-protein interactions


Dive into the research topics of 'Field-flow fractionation for molecular-interaction studies of labile and complex systems: A critical review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this