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J Mol Biol. 1989 Oct 20;209(4):801-16.

Role of the hydrophobic effect in stability of site-specific protein-DNA complexes.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706.


The site-specific binding interaction of lac repressor with a symmetric operator sequence and of EcoRI endonuclease with its specific recognition site both exhibit a characteristic dependence of equilibrium binding constant (Kobs) on temperature, in which Kobs attains a relative maximum in the physiologically relevant temperature range. This behavior, which appears to be quite general for site-specific protein-DNA interactions, is indicative of a large negative standard heat capacity change (delta C0P,obs) in the association process. By analogy with model compound transfer studies and protein folding data, we propose that this delta C0P,obs results primarily from the removal of non-polar surface from water in the association process. From delta C0P,obs we obtain semiquantitative information regarding the change in water-exposed non-polar surface area (delta Anp) and the corresponding hydrophobic driving force for association (delta G0hyd): delta G0hyd approximately equal to 8(+/- 1) x 10(1) delta C0P,obs approximately equal to -22(+/- 5) delta Anp. We propose that removal of non-polar surface from water (the hydrophobic effect) and release of cations (the polyelectrolyte effect) drive the thermodynamically unfavorable process (e.g. conformational distortions) necessary to achieve mutually complementary recognition surfaces (at a steric and functional-group level) in the specific complex.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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