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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2001 Oct 1;394(1):61-6.

Urea increases tolerance of yeast inorganic pyrophosphatase activity to ethanol: the other side of urea interaction with proteins.

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Laboratório de Enzimologia e Controle do Metabolismo, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Ilha do Foundão, Rio de Janeiro, 21944-910, Brazil.


Ethanol is the major product of yeast sugar fermentation and yet, at certain concentrations, it is very toxic to yeast cells. The major targets for ethanol's toxicity are the plasma membrane and the cytosolic enzymes: ethanol alters membrane organization and permeability and inactivates and unfolds globular cytosolic enzymes. The effects of ethanol on the plasma membrane are attenuated by the presence of trehalose, a disaccharide of glucose that is accumulated simultaneously with urea. The data presented in this paper show that trehalose is not effective at protecting yeast cytosolic inorganic pyrophosphatase against the inactivation of its catalytic activity promoted by alcohols. In contrast, 1 M trehalose increased the toxicity of alcohols against pyrophosphatase by at least 34%. On the other hand, 1.5 M urea attenuated the inactivation of pyrophosphatase promoted by alcohols by approximately 50%. Here we propose that, in the presence of alcohols, urea functions as a molecular filter, enriching the vicinity of the protein with water and excluding alcohol molecules. Conversely, trehalose tends to increase the interaction of alcohols with protein molecules, by withdrawing water, leading to a stronger inactivation promoted for a given concentration of alcohol in the bulk solution on pyrophosphatase activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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