Poly [(N-vinylimidazole)-maleic acid] (poly(VIm-MA)), copolymeric hydrogels were prepared by gamma-irradiating ternary mixtures of N-vinylimidazole-maleic acid-water in a Co-60-gamma source. Cu(II) and Co(II) ions were chelated within the gels at pH=5.0. The maximum adsorption capacity of the gels were 3.71 mmol/g dry gel for Cu(II) and 1.25 mmol/g dry gel for Co(II) at pH = 5.0. The swelling ratios of the gels were 1200% for poly(VIm-MA), 60 and 45% for Cu(II) and Co(II)-chelated poly(VIm-MA) gels at pH = 5.0 in acetate buffer solution. These affinity gels with different swelling ratios for plain poly(VIm-MA), Cu(II), and Co(II)-chelated poly(VIm-MA), in acetate and phosphate buffers were used in the bovine serum albumin (BSA) adsorption/desorption studies in batch reactor. The maximum BSA adsorption capacities of the gels were 0.38 g/g dry gel for plain, 0.88 g/g dry gel for Cu(II)-chelated poly(VIm-MA) and 1.05 g/g dry gel for Co(II)-chelated poly(VIm-MA) gels. Adsorption capacity of BSA by the gels was reduced dramatically by increasing the ionic strength adjusted with NaCl. More than 95% of BSA were desorbed in 10 h in desorption medium containing 0. 1 M of EDTA for metal ion-chelated gels at pH = 4.7. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.