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Biophys Chem. 2004 Dec 1;112(1):45-57.

Kosmotropes and chaotropes: modelling preferential exclusion, binding and aggregate stability.

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Institut de théorie des phénoménes physiques, Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


Kosmotropic cosolvents added to an aqueous solution promote the aggregation of hydrophobic solute particles, while chaotropic cosolvents act to destabilise such aggregates. We discuss the mechanism for these phenomena within an adapted version of the two-state Muller-Lee-Graziano model for water, which provides a complete description of the ternary water/cosolvent/solute system for small solute particles. This model contains the dominant effect of a kosmotropic substance, which is to enhance the formation of water structure. The consequent preferential exclusion both of cosolvent molecules from the solvation shell of hydrophobic particles and of these particles from the solution leads to a stabilisation of aggregates. By contrast, chaotropic substances disrupt the formation of water structure, are themselves preferentially excluded from the solution, and thereby contribute to solvation of hydrophobic particles. We use Monte Carlo simulations to demonstrate at the molecular level the preferential exclusion or binding of cosolvent molecules in the solvation shell of hydrophobic particles, and the consequent enhancement or suppression of aggregate formation. We illustrate the influence of structure-changing cosolvents on effective hydrophobic interactions by modelling qualitatively the kosmotropic effect of sodium chloride and the chaotropic effect of urea.

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