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Protein Sci. Oct 1993; 2(10): 1551–1558.
PMCID: PMC2142256

Disulfide bonds and the stability of globular proteins.


An understanding of the forces that contribute to stability is pivotal in solving the protein-folding problem. Classical theory suggests that disulfide bonds stabilize proteins by reducing the entropy of the denatured state. More recent theories have attempted to expand this idea, suggesting that in addition to configurational entropic effects, enthalpic and native-state effects occur and cannot be neglected. Experimental thermodynamic evidence is examined from two sources: (1) the disruption of naturally occurring disulfides, and (2) the insertion of novel disulfides. The data confirm that enthalpic and native-state effects are often significant. The experimental changes in free energy are compared to those predicted by different theories. The differences between theory and experiment are large near 300 K and do not lend support to any of the current theories regarding the stabilization of proteins by disulfide bonds. This observation is a result of not only deficiencies in the theoretical models but also from difficulties in determining the effects of disulfide bonds on protein stability against the backdrop of numerous subtle stabilizing factors (in both the native and denatured states), which they may also affect.

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Selected References

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