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Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2001;36(1):39-106.

Thermophilic adaptation of proteins.

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  • 1Institut für Biochemie der Universität zu Köln, Germany.


Hyperthermophilic organisms optimally grow close to the boiling point of water. As a consequence, their macromolecules must be much more thermostable than those from mesophilic species. Here, proteins from hyperthermophiles and mesophiles are compared with respect to their thermodynamic and kinetic stabilities. The known differences in amino acid sequences and three-dimensional structures between intrinsically thermostable and thermolabile proteins will be summarized, and the crucial role of electrostatic interactions for protein stability at high temperatures will be highlighted. Successful attempts to increase the thermostability of proteins, which were either based on rational design or on directed evolution, are presented. The relationship between high thermo-stability of enzymes from hyperthermophiles and their low catalytic activity at room temperature is discussed. Not all proteins from hyperthermophiles are thermostable enough to retain their structures and functions at the high physiological temperatures. It will be shown how this shortcoming can be surpassed by extrinsic factors such as large molecular chaperones and small compatible solutes. Finally, the potential of thermostable enzymes for biotechnology is discussed.

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