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J Mol Biol. 2006 Jul 14;360(3):715-24. Epub 2006 May 19.

Role of solvation barriers in protein kinetic stability.

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Departamento de Quimica Fisica, Facultad de Ciencias, 18071-Granada, Spain.


The stability of several protein systems of interest has been shown to have a kinetic basis. Besides the obvious biotechnological implications, the general interest of understanding protein kinetic stability is emphasized by the fact that some emerging molecular approaches to the inhibition of amyloidogenesis focus on the increase of the kinetic stability of protein native states. Lipases are among the most important industrial enzymes. Here, we have studied the thermal denaturation of the wild-type form, four single-mutant variants and two highly stable, multiple-mutant variants of lipase from Thermomyces lanuginosa. In all cases, thermal denaturation was irreversible, kinetically controlled and conformed to the two-state irreversible model. This result supports that the novel molecular-dynamics-focused, directed-evolution approach involved in the preparation of the highly stable variants is successful likely because it addresses kinetic stability and, in particular, because heated molecular dynamics simulations possibly identify regions of disrupted native interactions in the transition state for irreversible denaturation. Furthermore, we find very large mutation effects on activation enthalpy and entropy, which were not accompanied by similarly large changes in kinetic urea m-value. From this we are led to conclude that these mutation effects are associated to some structural feature of the transition state for the irreversible denaturation process that is not linked to large changes in solvent accessibility. Recent computational studies have suggested the existence of solvation/desolvation barriers in at least some protein folding/unfolding processes. We thus propose that a solvation barrier (arising from the asynchrony between breaking of internal contacts and water penetration) may contribute to the kinetic stability of lipase from T. lanuginosa (and, possibly, to the kinetic stability of other proteins as well).

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