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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1996 Dec 6;1291(3):189-94.

Natural and synthetic betaines counter the effects of high NaCl and urea concentrations.

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Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand.


Escherichia coli was used as a model system to evaluate a range of betaines for their ability to protect against salt and urea stresses. Betaine structure determined the salt and urea protective effects. Dimethylthetin conferred salt protection similar to glycine betaine, whereas dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) was less effective than either glycine betaine or dimethylthetin, but similar to propionobetaine (its nitrogen analogue). Hydrophobic alpha-substituents altered salt tolerance. Valine betaine with an aliphatic side group conferred salt tolerance similar to glycine betaine. Betaines containing phenyl groups (phenylglycine, phenylalanine and N-phenylglycine betaines) did not confer salt protection, growth being similar to, or less than the control (no betaine). Hydrophobic groups decreased the ability to protect against urea stresses; valine betaine conferred poor urea tolerance. The addition of an hydroxyl group increased the ability of a betaine to protect against urea denaturation. Proline betaine, an effective salt protector, conferred poor urea tolerance. Increasing the charge separation in the betaine molecule decreased the ability to confer urea tolerance. Thiolanium, pyridinium and triethylglycine betaines, with larger cationic functions, conferred no urea tolerance to E. coli.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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