The effect of osmolytes on protein fold stability at the single-molecule level

Aioanei, Daniel (2013) The effect of osmolytes on protein fold stability at the single-molecule level, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Biologia cellulare, molecolare e industriale/cellular, molecular and industrial biology: progetto n. 2 Biologia funzionale dei sistemi cellulari e molecolari, 25 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/5370.
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By pulling and releasing the tension on protein homomers with the Atomic Force Miscroscope (AFM) at different pulling speeds, dwell times and dwell distances, the observed force-response of the protein can be fitted with suitable theoretical models. In this respect we developed mathematical procedures and open-source computer codes for driving such experiments and fitting Bell’s model to experimental protein unfolding forces and protein folding frequencies. We applied the above techniques to the study of proteins GB1 (the B1 IgG-binding domain of protein G from Streptococcus) and I27 (a module of human cardiac titin) in aqueous solutions of protecting osmolytes such as dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), glycerol and trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). In order to get a molecular understanding of the experimental results we developed an Ising-like model for proteins that incorporates the osmophobic nature of their backbone. The model benefits from analytical thermodynamics and kinetics amenable to Monte-Carlo simulation. The prevailing view used to be that small protecting osmolytes bridge the separating beta-strands of proteins with mechanical resistance, presumably shifting the transition state to significantly higher distances that correlate with the molecular size of the osmolyte molecules. Our experiments showed instead that protecting osmolytes slow down protein unfolding and speed-up protein folding at physiological pH without shifting the protein transition state on the mechanical reaction coordinate. Together with the theoretical results of the Ising-model, our results lend support to the osmophobic theory according to which osmolyte stabilisation is a result of the preferential exclusion of the osmolyte molecules from the protein backbone. The results obtained during this thesis work have markedly improved our understanding of the strategy selected by Nature to strengthen protein stability in hostile environments, shifting the focus from hypothetical protein-osmolyte interactions to the more general mechanism based on the osmophobicity of the protein backbone.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Aioanei, Daniel
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze biologiche, biomediche e biotecnologiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
osmolytes, atomic force microscopy, refolding
Data di discussione
22 Aprile 2013

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