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Interactions of Urea with Native and Unfolded Proteins: A Volumetric Study

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journal contribution
posted on 26.11.2014 by Ikbae Son, Yuen Lai Shek, Anna Tikhomirova, Eduardo Hidalgo Baltasar, Tigran V. Chalikian
We describe a statistical thermodynamic approach to analyzing urea-dependent volumetric properties of proteins. We use this approach to analyze our urea-dependent data on the partial molar volume and adiabatic compressibility of lysozyme, apocytochrome c, ribonuclease A, and α-chymotrypsinogen A. The analysis produces the thermodynamic properties of elementary urea–protein association reactions while also yielding estimates of the effective solvent-accessible surface areas of the native and unfolded protein states. Lysozyme and apocytochrome c do not undergo urea-induced transitions. The former remains folded, while the latter is unfolded between 0 and 8 M urea. In contrast, ribonuclease A and α-chymotrypsinogen A exhibit urea-induced unfolding transitions. Thus, our data permit us to characterize urea–protein interactions in both the native and unfolded states. We interpreted the urea-dependent volumetric properties of the proteins in terms of the equilibrium constant, k, and changes in volume, ΔV0, and compressibility, ΔKT0, for a reaction in which urea binds to a protein with a concomitant release of two waters of hydration to the bulk. Comparison of the values of k, ΔV0, and ΔKT0 with the similar data obtained on small molecules mimicking protein groups reveals lack of cooperative effects involved in urea–protein interactions. In general, the volumetric approach, while providing a unique characterization of cosolvent–protein interactions, offers a practical way for evaluating the effective solvent accessible surface area of biologically significant fully or partially unfolded polypeptides.