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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 Nov;86(21):8382-5.

Hydrophobic effect in protein folding and other noncovalent processes involving proteins.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706.


Large negative standard heat capacity changes (delta CP degree much less than 0) are the hallmark of processes that remove nonpolar surface from water, including the transfer of nonpolar solutes from water to a nonaqueous phase and the folding, aggregation/association, and ligand-binding reactions of proteins [Sturtevant, J. M. (1977) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 74, 2236-2240]. More recently, Baldwin [Baldwin, R. L. (1986) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 83, 8069-8072] proposed that the delta CP degree of protein folding could be used to quantify the contribution of the burial of nonpolar surface (the hydrophobic effect) to the stability of a globular protein. We demonstrate that identical correlations between the delta CP degree and the change in water-accessible nonpolar surface area (delta Anp) are obtained for both the transfer of nonpolar solutes from water to the pure liquid phase and the folding of small globular proteins: delta CP degree/delta Anp = -(0.28 +/- 0.05) (where delta Anp is expressed in A2 and delta CP degree is expressed in cal.mol-1.K-1; 1 cal = 4.184 J). The fact that these correlations are identical validates the proposals by both Sturtevant and Baldwin that the hydrophobic effect is in general the dominant contributor to delta CP degree and provides a straightforward means of estimating the contribution of the hydrophobic driving force (delta Ghyd degree) to the standard free energy change of a noncovalent process characterized by a large negative delta CP degree in the physiological temperature range: delta Ghyd degree congruent to (80 +/- 10)delta CP degree.

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