Synergy in Protein–Osmolyte Mixtures
journal contributionposted on 17.12.2015, 06:49 by Jörg Rösgen
Virtually all taxa use osmolytes to protect cells against biochemical stress. Osmolytes often occur in mixtures, such as the classical combination of urea with TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide) in cartilaginous fish or the cocktail of at least six different osmolytes in the kidney. The concentration patterns of osmolyte mixtures found in vivo make it likely that synergy between them plays an important role. Using statistical mechanical n-component Kirkwood–Buff theory, we show from first principles that synergy in protein–osmolyte systems can arise from two separable sources: (1) mutual alteration of protein surface solvation and (2) effects mediated through bulk osmolyte chemical activities. We illustrate both effects in a four-component system with the experimental example of the unfolding of a notch ankyrin domain in urea–TMAO mixtures, which make urea a less effective denaturant and TMAO a more effective stabilizer. Protein surface effects are primarily responsible for this synergy. The specific patterns of surface solvation point to denatured state expansion as the main factor, as opposed to direct competition.