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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 28;8(6):e68264. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068264. Print 2013.

ESR study of interfacial hydration layers of polypeptides in water-filled nanochannels and in vitrified bulk solvents.

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Department of Chemistry and Frontier Research Center on Fundamental and Applied Sciences of Matters, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.


There is considerable evidence for the essential role of surface water in protein function and structure. However, it is unclear to what extent the hydration water and protein are coupled and interact with each other. Here, we show by ESR experiments (cw, DEER, ESEEM, and ESE techniques) with spin-labeling and nanoconfinement techniques that the vitrified hydration layers can be evidently recognized in the ESR spectra, providing nanoscale understanding for the biological interfacial water. Two peptides of different secondary structures and lengths are studied in vitrified bulk solvents and in water-filled nanochannels of different pore diameter (6.1~7.6 nm). The existence of surface hydration and bulk shells are demonstrated. Water in the immediate vicinity of the nitroxide label (within the van der Waals contacts, ~0.35 nm) at the water-peptide interface is verified to be non-crystalline at 50 K, and the water accessibility changes little with the nanochannel dimension. Nevertheless, this water accessibility for the nanochannel cases is only half the value for the bulk solvent, even though the peptide structures remain largely the same as those immersed in the bulk solvents. On the other hand, the hydration density in the range of ~2 nm from the nitroxide spin increases substantially with decreasing pore size, as the density for the largest pore size (7.6 nm) is comparable to that for the bulk solvent. The results demonstrate that while the peptides are confined but structurally unaltered in the nanochannels, their surrounding water exhibits density heterogeneity along the peptide surface normal. The causes and implications, especially those involving the interactions between the first hydration water and peptides, of these observations are discussed. Spin-label ESR techniques are proven useful for studying the structure and influences of interfacial hydration.

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