Pressure effects on structures formed by entropically driven self-assembly: Illustration for denaturation of proteins

Takashi Yoshidome, Yuichi Harano, Masahiro Kinoshita

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47 Citations (Scopus)


We propose a general framework of pressure effects on the structures formed by the self-assembly of solute molecules immersed in solvent. The integral equation theory combined with the morphometric approach is employed for a hard-body model system. Our picture is that protein folding and ordered association of proteins are driven by the solvent entropy: At low pressures, the structures almost minimizing the excluded volume (EV) generated for solvent particles are stabilized. Such structures appear to be even more stabilized at high pressures. However, it is experimentally known that the native structure of a protein is unfolded, and ordered aggregates such as amyloid fibrils and actin filaments are dissociated by applying high pressures. This initially puzzling result can also be elucidated in terms of the solvent entropy. A clue to the basic mechanism is in the phenomenon that, when a large hard-sphere solute is immersed in small hard spheres forming the solvent, the small hard spheres are enriched near the solute and this enrichment becomes greater as the pressure increases. We argue that "attraction" is entropically provided between the solute surface and solvent particles, and the attraction becomes higher with rising pressure. Due to this effect, at high pressures, the structures possessing the largest possible solvent-accessible surface area together with sufficiently small EV become more stable in terms of the solvent entropy. To illustrate this concept, we perform an analysis of pressure denaturation of three different proteins. It is shown that only the structures that have the characteristics described above exhibit interesting behavior. They first become more destabilized relative to the native structure as the pressure increases, but beyond a threshold pressure the relative instability begins to decrease and they eventually become more stable than the native structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number011912
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jan 5


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