Fish Gelatin

Abstract

  Gelatin is obtained by the hydrolysis of collagen which is the principal protein found in skin and  

  bones. Fish gelatin is being extracted commercially in Nova Scotia by Kenney & Ross at Port Saxon.

  The raw material is the skin from deep water fish such as cod, haddock and pollock, and is obtained

  from local salt fish and frozen fish processors. The uniqueness of fish gelatin lies in the amino acid

  content of the gelatin. Although all gelatins are composed of the same 20 amino acids, there can be

  a variation in the amount of imino acids, proline and hydroxyproline. With lower amounts of these

  amino acids, there is less hydrogen bonding of gelatin in water solutions, and hence a reduction in

  the gelling temperature. Gelatin from cod skin gels at 10ºC, whereas gelatin from carp skin would be

  more similar to animal gelatin, which gels above room temperature. Most people think of gelatin as a

  food additive or part of photographic film. With a lower gelling temperature, other commercial

  applications of fish gelatin have been developed. These applications are discussed.

Overview

  The amount of information reported in the literature on fish gelatin is somewhat limited (Mees, 1966;

  Gustavson, 1956; Piez, 1965). Kenney & Ross has been producing fish gelatin since 1960, and this

  conference gives us the opportunity to share with you some of the information that we have

  developed. The product initially manufactured by us was marketed as a clarified fish glue, and 

  essentially was a fish gelatin used in industrial application. We have been marketing an edible type

  of fish gelatin since 1981.

  All gelatin is derived from collagen, the principal protein found in skin and bone. A simplified

  characterization of the applications of gelatin would be into the following four uses:

  1. Edible gelatin - Free of heavy metals and aesthetically suitable for eating.
  1. Industrial gelatin - Where the chemical and physical properties are uniquely suitable for an industrial application. A good example would be gelatin used for the microencapsulation of dye precursors for carbonless paper.
  2. Photographic gelatin - The requirements being extremely critical. Photographic film requires a long shelf-life, and the gelatin has a major impact on the silver halide chemistry that requires the ability to take a picture and be able to develop it later with standard developing conditions.
  3. Glue - Essentially for adhesive or gluing applications.

  Fish gelatin, with the exception of photographic film, is used in all these applications. However, fish

  gelatin is used as the base for a light sensitive coating (or photoresist) for the electronics trade.

  The precursor for gelatin is collagen. Collagen is the major structural protein found in the skin and

  bones of all animals. The collagen molecule consists of 3 individual polypeptide chains (alpha

  chains) which are wound around one another in a triple helix confirmation. This triple helix is

  stabilized by hydrogen bonds between collagen molecules, which happens as the animal ages. A

  collagen molecule of three alpha chains would measure 3000Aº in length (0.3 microns) and 15Aº in

  diameter. Each alpha chain has approximately 1050 amino acids connected together. There are

  twenty different amino acids in each alpha chain, and for each animal type of gelatin, these amino

  acids are in a specific repeated pattern. Glycine, which represents a third of the amino acids content,

  is in repeated sequence with two other amino acids. This might be represented as glycine-x-y. It is

  not unusual for x to be proline and y to be a hydroxyproline residue.

  Table 1 compares the content of amino acids in fish gelatin with that of calf skin gelatin. We sell our

  gelatin as HiPure Liquid and Dry Gelatin. The amino acids are listed alphabetically together with

  their functionality. A common way of stating the content of amino acids is by indicating the number

  of residues per thousand amino acids. Note the comparison between fish gelatin and calf skin

  gelatin for the amino acids proline and hydroxyproline.

Table 1

Comparative contents of amino acids in Hi-Pure liquid gelatin and animal gelatin.

Amino Acid

Function

Residues/1000 Amino Acids

 

 HiPure Liquid Gelatin

Calf Skin Gelatin

Alanine

Arginine

Aspartic Acid

Non polar aliphatic

Basic amino acid

Dicarboxylic acid

124

55

37

114

51

45

Cysteine

Glutamic Acid

Glycine

Sulphur containing

Dicarboxylic acid

Non polar aliphatic

--

77

334

--

71

325

Histidine

Hydroxyproline

Isoleucine

Basic amino acid

Imino acid

Non polar aliphatic

9

54

10

5

86

11

Leucine

Lysine

Methionine

Non polar aliphatic

Basic amino acid

Sulphur containing

20

35

13

25

34

6

Phenylalanine

Proline

Serine

Aromatic

Imino Acid

Hydroxyl containing

11

106

65

13

135

37

Threonine

Tryptophan

Tyrosine

Hydroxyl containing

Aromatic

Hydroxyl containing

26

--

2

18

--

3

Valine

Non polar aliphatic

22

22

  The role of proline and hydroxyproline in collagen is very critical. There appears to be a relationship

  between the temperature at which the animal (or fish) metabolizes and the properties of the skin and

  resultant extracted gelatin. Gelatin derived from the skin of deep cold water fish has lower amounts 

  of proline and hydroxyproline, and as a result, water solutions will not gel at room temperature, but

  will remain liquid to 8 to 10ºC.

  Collagen in skin can be dissolved in dilute cold acid or salt solution, but with great difficulty and

  generally poor yields. This is because collagen molecules are covalently cross-linked into fibrils that

  may swell, but do not dissolve. If the skin and cold acid are heated, at a certain temperature the

  collagen molecule undergoes a helix coil transition. The helix coil literally unfolds, and the collagen

  becomes more readily soluble. The temperature at which this occurs depends upon the amount of

  proline and hydroxyproline in the alpha chain, and this temperature is the point of denaturing. For

  deep cold water fish collagen, this temperature is approximately 15ºC. Bovine collagen is

  approximately 40ºC. Another term, which covers the same effect in the skin itself, is the shrinkage t

  temperature. This is exactly what the term implies. At a certain temperature, the collagen in the raw  

  skin will relax and the skin will shrink. The shrinkage temperature of the raw skin is higher than the

  denaturing temperature of the skin in acidified water, but the same relationship of proline and

  hydroxyproline to the shrinkage temperature still holds.

  Table 2 shows a comparison of the amino acid composition of some fish collagens that have been  

  published by Piez and Gross (1960). Glycine represents a third of the total amino acids residues.

  There are similarities in the composition, but what is important, is the total amount of proline and

  hydroxyproline, as well as the highest shrinkage temperature.

Table 2

Amino acid compositions and shrinkage temperatures of fish and calf gelatins.*

Amino Acid/

Shrinkage

Residues/1000 Amino Acids

 

 Carp Skin Gelatin

Cod Skin Gelatin

 Pike Skin Gelatin

Calf Skin Gelatin

Glycine

Alanine

Valine

317

120

19

345

107

19

328

114

18

320

112

20

Isoleucine

Leucine

Proline

12

25

124

11

23

102

9.2

20

129

11

25

138

Hydroxyproline

Phenylalanine

Tyrosine

73

14

3.2

53

13

3.5

70

14

1.8

94

13

2.6

Serine

Threonine

Methionine

43

27

12

69

25

13

41

25

12

36

18

4.3

Cystine

Hydroxylysine

Lysine

<1

4.5

27

<1

6.0

25

<1

7.9

22

<1

7.4

27

Histidine

Arginine

Aspartic Acid

4.5

53

47

7.5

51

52

7.4

45

54

5.0

50

45

Glutamic Acid

74

75

81

72

Shrinkage Temp (°C)

57

40

55

65

 

*Piez and Gross (1960)

  Commercial extraction of gelatin depends upon both dissolving and hydrolyzing the denatured skin.

  The gelatin may retain some covalent bonds between alpha chains, which would entail multiples of

  the single alpha chain length of 95,000 daltons. There are also major proportions of shorter chain 

  polypeptide in the gelatin, as the chain is cleaved in the extraction process. This is not necessarily a

  problem, as the end product may not need very high molecular fractions in order to accomplish the

  specific application.

  The molecular weight of four gelatins were compared using gel permeation chromatography and

  low angle light scattering (Berg and Frederick, private communication) in Fig. 1. The top curve is a

  standard gelatin, and underneath it is calf skin gelatin. The second curve is fish gelatin extracted

  with minimal hydrolysis. The lowest curve is commercial fish gelatin, which was hydrolyzed more to

  achieve certain viscosity characteristics. The animal gelatins and the low hydrolysis fish gelatin all

  have peaks at 190,000 and 95,000, characteristic of beta and alpha collagens respectively. About

  10% of the wet weight of fish skin is Type I collagen. Fig. 2 is a comparison of molecular

  composition of calf skin collagen with fish skin collagen, done by using polyacrylamide gel

  electrophoresis (PAGE) according to the method of Laemml (1970), whereby molecules of different

  molecular weights are separated using an electrical current. There are similarities between the two

  collagens. The fish collagen consisted primarily of alpha 1 and alpha 2 chains in a 2:1 ratio. Beta

  collagen would be two alpha collagens covalently linked together.

  Fig. 3 plots the viscosity of a 10% solution of animal gelatin vs fish gelatin with minimal hydrolysis

  and commercial fish gelatin. There are similarities between the gelatins, but note that the animal

  gelatin gels at 32ºC, whereas the fish gelatin remains liquid down to 8ºC.

  Norland HiPure Liquid Gelatin is supplied at 45% solids in water and is pourable solution at 7000   

  to  8000cps, about the viscosity of honey. The gelatin is protected by a mixture of methyl and propyl

  hydroxybenzoates.

  Fish gelatin has similar chemical reactivity to animal gelatin. Aldehydes such as formaldehyde,

  gluteraldehyde and glyoxal will cross-link and harden the gelatin under appropriate conditions. It

  can be reacted with anydrides under alkaline conditions, reducing or eliminating the effect of

  aldehydes as a hardening agent on the gelatin. Fish gelatin also provides a good medium for

  precipitating silver halide emulsions, as this can be done at lower temperatures than with animal

  gelatin.

  Our factory is located on the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, Canada, in an area rich in fishing

  grounds. Skins are obtained from frozen fish producers, as well as salt fish processors. Large

  quantities of skin are used in the plant, and 16,000 pounds of skins are handled daily.

  I mentioned fish gelatin being used in a light sensitive coating. Our clarified fish glue was originally

  used as a base for a water soluble photoresist (Holahan, 1965). If you have a color television set

  there is a good possibility that the critical part of the television tube, the aperture mask, was made

  using a photolithographic process with fish gelatin as the photoresist base. There are 400,000  

  holes or slots in the mask and the purpose of these holes is to delineate the color picture that is    

  projected onto the phosphors on the inside of the television tube. The optics are so critical, that

  imperfections of a fraction of a micron can be visually seen on the screen, and would be a cause for

  rejection. These masks are made in a continuous process whereby thin metal is unwound from a role

  from one end of the equipment, and completed masks are stripped from the sheet at the other end 

  1,000 feet away.

  Fish gelatin is also used in the manufacture of lead frames that hold the silicon chip in computers  

  and microprocessors (American Machinist, 1971). The chip is mounted on a pad at the center

  portion of the lead frame, and each circuit on the chip is connected to a lead that surrounds it. The l

  lead frame are made using a photochemical machining process and a fish gelatin photoresist.

  A necessary part of the optics of a color video camera is a color stripped filter that separates the

  color signals for the electronics of the camera. Each filter has a series of 3 different color stripes, 12

  microns wide, put down on glass in a repeat pattern. The total size of the filter is approximately 1/2"

  x 3/4". The stripes are put on the glass using a photolithographic process in the fish gelatin.

Summary

  1) Gelatin is made from collagen, which is part of the skin and bones of animals and fish.

  2) All gelatins have same 20 different amino acids, in slightly different proportions for different

     species.

  3) The amount of the imino amino acids, proline and hydroxyproline, determines the shrinkage  

      temperature and the denaturing temperature, (The temperature at which the collagen helix  

     unwinds), and as a result, the temperature at which solutions of the extracted gelatins gels.

  4) Gelatin from cold deep water fish such as cod, haddock, pollock, hake and cusk, gels at 8 to 10ºC

      compared to calf skin gelatin which gels at 30 to 35ºC.

  5) Fish gelatin is used in a variety of coating applications, the largest of which is a base for a water

      soluble photoresist.

References

  Berg, R. and Frederick. Private communication. Biomaterials Centre, Dept. of Pathology, Rutgers

  Medical School, Piscataway, NJ.

  Burjanadze, T.V. 1982. Stabilization of collage structure; Dependence of collagen denaturation

  enthalpy on the imino acid content. Biopolymers 21(8): 1587.

  Chemically Milling Precision Parts. 1971. American Machinist 115: 50.

  Gustavson, K.H. 1956. "The Chemistry and Reactivity of Collagen." Academic Press, New York, NY.

  Holahan, J.F. 1965. Manufacture of color picture tubes. Electronics World 74(6):30-32,56.

  Laemmll, U.K. 1970. Cleavage of structural proteins during the assembly of the head of

  bacteriophage T4. Nature 227(5259): 680.

  Mees, C.E.K. and James, T.H. 1966. "The Theory of the Photographic Process." 3rd ed. Macmillan

  Company, New York.

  Piez, K. 1965. Characterization of a collagen from cod skin containing three chromatographically

  different chains. Biochemistry 4(12): 2590.

  Piez, K.A. and Gross, J. 1960. The amino acid composition of some fish collagens: The relations

  between composition and structure. J. Biol. Chem. 235(4): 995.

 

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