ABSTRACT: Noncovalent interactions are key determinants in both chemical and biological processes. Among such processes, the hydrophobic interactions play an eminent role in folding of proteins, nucleic acids, formation of membranes, protein-ligand recognition, etc.. Though this interaction is mediated through the aqueous solvent, the stability of the above biomolecules can be highly sensitive to any small external perturbations, such as temperature, pressure, pH, or even cosolvent additives, like, urea-a highly soluble small organic molecule utilized by various living organisms to regulate osmotic pressure. A plethora of detailed studies exist covering both experimental and theoretical regimes, to understand how urea modulates the stability of biological macromolecules. While experimentalists have been primarily focusing on the thermodynamic and kinetic aspects, theoretical modeling predominantly involves mechanistic information at the molecular level, calculating atomistic details applying the force field approach to the high level electronic details using the quantum mechanical methods. The review focuses mainly on examples with biological relevance, such as (1) urea-assisted protein unfolding, (2) urea-assisted RNA unfolding, (3) urea lesion interaction within damaged DNA, (4) urea conduction through membrane proteins, and (5) protein-ligand interactions those explicitly address the vitality of hydrophobic interactions involving exclusively the urea-aromatic moiety.
Project description:Urea-induced protein denaturation is widely used to study protein folding and stability; however, the molecular mechanism and driving forces of this process are not yet fully understood. In particular, it is unclear whether either hydrophobic or polar interactions between urea molecules and residues at the protein surface drive denaturation. To address this question, here, many molecular dynamics simulations totalling ca. 7 micros of the CI2 protein in aqueous solution served to perform a computational thought experiment, in which we varied the polarity of urea. For apolar driving forces, hypopolar urea should show increased denaturation power; for polar driving forces, hyperpolar urea should be the stronger denaturant. Indeed, protein unfolding was observed in all simulations with decreased urea polarity. Hyperpolar urea, in contrast, turned out to stabilize the native state. Moreover, the differential interaction preferences between urea and the 20 amino acids turned out to be enhanced for hypopolar urea and suppressed (or even inverted) for hyperpolar urea. These results strongly suggest that apolar urea-protein interactions, and not polar interactions, are the dominant driving force for denaturation. Further, the observed interactions provide a detailed picture of the underlying molecular driving forces. Our simulations finally allowed characterization of CI2 unfolding pathways. Unfolding proceeds sequentially with alternating loss of secondary or tertiary structure. After the transition state, unfolding pathways show large structural heterogeneity.
Project description:Molecular dynamics simulations of the protein chymotrypsin inhibitor 2 in 8 M urea at 60 degrees C were undertaken to investigate the molecular basis of chemical denaturation. The protein unfolded rapidly under these conditions, but it retained its native structure in a control simulation in water at the same temperature. The overall process of unfolding in urea was similar to that observed in thermal denaturation simulations above the protein's T(m) of 75 degrees C. The first step in unfolding was expansion of the hydrophobic core. Then, the core was solvated by water and later by urea. The denatured structures in both urea and at high temperature contained residual native helical structure, whereas the beta-structure was completely disrupted. The average residence time for urea around hydrophilic groups was six times greater than around hydrophobic residues and in all cases greater than the corresponding water residence times. Water self-diffusion was reduced 40% in 8 M urea. Urea altered water structure and dynamics, thereby diminishing the hydrophobic effect and encouraging solvation of hydrophobic groups. In addition, through urea's weakening of water structure, water became free to compete with intraprotein interactions. Urea also interacted directly with polar residues and the peptide backbone, thereby stabilizing nonnative conformations. These simulations suggest that urea denatures proteins via both direct and indirect mechanisms.
Project description:Unfolding of the soluble colicin E1 channel peptide was examined with the use of urea as a denaturant; it was shown that it unfolds to an intermediate state in 8.5 M urea, equivalent to a dimeric species previously observed in 4 M guanidinium chloride. Single tryptophan residues, substituted into the peptide at various positions by site-directed mutagenesis, were employed as fluorescent probes of local unfolding. Unfolding profiles for specific sites within the peptide were obtained by quantifying the shifts in the fluorescence emission maxima of single tryptophan residues on unfolding and plotting them against urea concentration. Unfolding reported by tryptophan residues in the C-terminal region was not characteristic of complete peptide denaturation, as evidenced by the relatively blue-shifted values of the fluorescence emission maxima. Unfolding was also monitored by using CD spectroscopy and the fluorescent probe 2-(p-toluidinyl)-naphthalene 6-sulphonic acid; the results indicated that unfolding of helices is concomitant with the exposure of protein non-polar surface. Unfolding profiles were evaluated by non-linear least-squares curve fitting and calculation of the unfolding transition midpoint. The unfolding profiles of residues located in the N-terminal region of the peptide had lower transition midpoints than residues in the C-terminal portion. The results of unfolding analysis demonstrated that urea unfolds the peptide only partly to an intermediate state, because the C-terminal portion of the channel peptide retained significant structure in 8.5 M urea. Characterization of the peptide's global unfolding by size-exclusion HPLC revealed that the partly denatured structure that persists in 8.5 M urea is a dimer of two channel peptides, tightly associated by hydrophobic interactions. The presence of the dimerized species was confirmed by SDS/PAGE and intermolecular fluorescence resonance energy transfer.
Project description:Proteins are denatured in aqueous urea solution. The nature of the molecular driving forces has received substantial attention in the past, whereas the question how urea acts at different phases of unfolding is not yet well understood at the atomic level. In particular, it is unclear whether urea actively attacks folded proteins or instead stabilizes unfolded conformations. Here we investigated the effect of urea at different phases of unfolding by molecular dynamics simulations, and the behavior of partially unfolded states in both aqueous urea solution and in pure water was compared. Whereas the partially unfolded protein in water exhibited hydrophobic collapses as primary refolding events, it remained stable or even underwent further unfolding steps in aqueous urea solution. Further, initial unfolding steps of the folded protein were found not to be triggered by urea, but instead, stabilized. The underlying mechanism of this stabilization is a favorable interaction of urea with transiently exposed, less-polar residues and the protein backbone, thereby impeding back-reactions. Taken together, these results suggest that, quite generally, urea-induced protein unfolding proceeds primarily not by active attack. Rather, thermal fluctuations toward the unfolded state are stabilized and the hydrophobic collapse of partially unfolded proteins toward the native state is impeded. As a result, the equilibrium is shifted toward the unfolded state.
Project description:To investigate the dehydration associated with protein folding, the partial molar volume changes for protein unfolding (?V u) in cytochrome c (Cyt c) were determined using high pressure absorption spectroscopy. ?V u values for the unfolding to urea- and guanidine hydrochloride (GdnHCl)-denatured Cyt c were estimated to be 56±5 and 29±1 mL mol-1, respectively. Considering that the volume change for hydration of hydrophobic groups is positive and that Cyt c has a covalently bonded heme, a positive ?V u reflects the primary contribution of the hydration of heme. Because of the marked tendency of guanidium ions to interact with hydrophobic groups, a smaller number of water molecules were hydrated with hydrophobic groups in GdnHCl-denatured Cyt c than in urea-denatured Cyt c, resulting in the smaller positive ?V u. On the other hand, urea is a relatively weak denaturant and urea-denatured Cyt c is not completely hydrated, which retains the partially folded structures. To unfold such partial structures, we introduced a mutation near the heme binding site, His26, to Gln, resulting in a negatively shifted ?V u (4±2 mL mol-1) in urea-denatured Cyt c. The formation of the more solvated and less structured state in the urea-denatured mutant enhanced hydration to the hydrophilic groups in the unfolding process. Therefore, we confirmed the hydration of amino acid residues in the protein unfolding of Cyt c by estimating ?V u, which allows us to discuss the hydrated structures in the denatured states of proteins.
Project description:Changes in excluded volume and contact interaction with the surface of a protein have been suggested as mechanisms for the changes in stability induced by cosolvents. The aim of the present paper is to present an analysis that combines both effects in a quantitative manner. The result is that both processes are present in both stabilizing and destabilizing interactions and neither can be ignored. Excluded volume was estimated using accessible surface area calculations of the kind introduced by Lee and Richards. The change in excluded volume on unfolding, deltaX, is quite large. For example, deltaX for ribonuclease is 6.7 L in urea and approximately 16 L in sucrose. The latter number is greater than the molar volume of the protein. Direct interaction with the protein is represented as the solvent exchange mechanism, which differs from ordinary association theory because of the weakness of the interaction and the high concentrations of cosolvents. The balance between the two effects and their contribution to overall stability are most simply presented as bar diagrams as in Fig. 3. Our finding for five proteins is that excluded volume contributes to the stabilization of the native structure and that contact interaction contributes to destabilization. This is true for five proteins and four cosolvents including both denaturants and osmolytes. Whether a substance stabilizes a protein or destabilizes it depends on the relative size of these two contributions. The constant for the cosolvent contact with the protein is remarkably uniform for four of the proteins, indicating a similarity of groups exposed during unfolding. One protein, staphylococcus nuclease, is anomalous in almost all respects. In general, the strength of the interaction with guanidinium is about twice that of urea, which is about twice that of trimethylamine-N-oxide and sucrose. Arguments are presented for the use of volume fractions in equilibrium equations and the ignoring of activity coefficients of the cosolvent. It is shown in the Appendix that both the excluded volume and the direct interaction can be extracted in a unified way from the McMillan-Mayer formula for the second virial coefficient.
Project description:After decades of using urea as denaturant, the kinetic role of this molecule in the unfolding process is still undefined: does urea actively induce protein unfolding or passively stabilize the unfolded state? By analyzing a set of 30 proteins (representative of all native folds) through extensive molecular dynamics simulations in denaturant (using a range of force-fields), we derived robust rules for urea unfolding that are valid at the proteome level. Irrespective of the protein fold, presence or absence of disulphide bridges, and secondary structure composition, urea concentrates in the first solvation shell of quasi-native proteins, but with a density lower than that of the fully unfolded state. The presence of urea does not alter the spontaneous vibration pattern of proteins. In fact, it reduces the magnitude of such vibrations, leading to a counterintuitive slow down of the atomic-motions that opposes unfolding. Urea stickiness and slow diffusion is, however, crucial for unfolding. Long residence urea molecules placed around the hydrophobic core are crucial to stabilize partially open structures generated by thermal fluctuations. Our simulations indicate that although urea does not favor the formation of partially open microstates, it is not a mere spectator of unfolding that simply displaces to the right of the folded ?? unfolded equilibrium. On the contrary, urea actively favors unfolding: it selects and stabilizes partially unfolded microstates, slowly driving the protein conformational ensemble far from the native one and also from the conformations sampled during thermal unfolding.
Project description:The interaction of baicalein with bovine serum albumin (BSA) was investigated with the help of spectroscopic and molecular docking studies. The binding affinity of baicalein towards BSA was estimated to be in order of 105 M-1 from fluorescence quenching studies. Negative ?H° (-5.66±0.14 kJ/mol) and positive (?S°) (+79.96±0.65 J/mol K) indicate the presence of electrostatic interactions along with the hydrophobic forces that result in a positive ?S°. The hydrophobic association of baicalein with BSA diminishes in the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) due to probable hydrophobic association of baicalein with SDS, resulting in a negative ?S° (-40.65±0.87 J/mol K). Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization/time of flight (MALDI--TOF) experiments indicate a 1:1 complexation between baicalein and BSA. The unfolding and refolding phenomena of BSA were investigated in the absence and presence of baicalein using steady-state and fluorescence lifetime measurements. It was observed that the presence of urea ruptured the non-covalent interaction between baicalein and BSA. The presence of metal ions (Ag+, Mg2+, Ni2+, Mn2+, Co2+and Zn2+) increased the binding affinity of ligand towards BSA. The changes in conformational aspects of BSA after ligand binding were also investigated using circular dichroism (CD) and Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopic techniques. Site selectivity studies following molecular docking analyses indicated the binding of baicalein to site 1 (subdomain IIA) of BSA.
Project description:Prion diseases, or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, are a group of infectious neurological diseases associated with the structural conversion of an endogenous protein (PrP) in the central nervous system. There are two major forms of this protein: the native and noninfectious cellular form, PrP(C); and the misfolded, infectious, and proteinase K-resistant form, PrP(Sc). The C-terminal domain of PrP(C) is mainly alpha-helical in structure, whereas PrP(Sc) in known to aggregate into an assembly of beta-sheets, forming amyloid fibrils. To identify the regions of PrP(C) potentially involved in the initial steps of the conversion to the infectious conformation, we have used high-resolution NMR spectroscopy to characterize the stability and structure of bovine recombinant PrP(C) (residues 121 to 230) during unfolding with the denaturant urea. Analysis of the 800 MHz (1)H NMR spectra reveals region-specific information about the structural changes occurring upon unfolding. Our data suggest that the dissociation of the native beta-sheet of PrP(C) is a primary step in the urea-induced unfolding process, while strong hydrophobic interactions between helices alpha1 and alpha3, and between alpha2 and alpha3, stabilize these regions even at very high concentrations of urea.
Project description:Proteins are very sensitive to their solvent environments. Urea is a common chemical denaturant of proteins, yet some animals contain high concentrations of urea. These animals have evolved an interesting mechanism to counteract the effects of urea by using trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). The molecular basis for the ability of TMAO to act as a chemical chaperone remains unknown. Here, we describe molecular dynamics simulations of a small globular protein, chymotrypsin inhibitor 2, in 8 M urea and 4 M TMAO/8 M urea solutions, in addition to other control simulations, to investigate this effect at the atomic level. In 8 M urea, the protein unfolds, and urea acts in both a direct and indirect manner to achieve this effect. In contrast, introduction of 4 M TMAO counteracts the effect of urea and the protein remains well structured. TMAO makes few direct interactions with the protein. Instead, it prevents unfolding of the protein by structuring the solvent. In particular, TMAO orders the solvent and discourages it from competing with intraprotein H bonds and breaking up the hydrophobic core of the protein.