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GomezPuyou A; Costas, M; Rodriguez-Larrea, D; De Maria, L; Borchert, TV; Sanchez-Ruiz, JM (2009)


J MOL BIOL 385(3):924-937
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Theoretical, computational, and experimental studies have suggested the existence of solvation barriers in protein unfolding and denaturation processes. These barriers are related to the finite size of water molecules and can be envisioned as arising from the asynchrony between water penetration and breakup of internal interactions. Solvation barriers have been proposed to play roles in protein cooperativity and kinetic stability; therefore, they may be expected to be subject to natural selection. We study the thermal denaturation, in the presence and in the absence of chemical denaturants, of triosephosphate isomerases (TIMs) from three different species: Trypanosoma cruzi, Trypanosoma brucei, and Leishmania mexicana. In all cases, denaturation was irreversible and kinetically controlled. Surprisingly, however, we found large differences between the kinetic denaturation parameters, with T cruzi TIM showing a much larger activation energy value (and, consequently, much lower room-temperature, extrapolated denaturation rates). This disparity cannot be accounted for by variations in the degree of exposure to solvent in transition states (as measured by kinetic urea m values) and is, therefore, to be attributed mainly to differences in solvation-barrier contributions. This was supported by structure-energetics analyses of the transition states and by application of a novel procedure to estimate from experimental data the solvation-barrier impact at the entropy and free-energy levels. These analyses were actually performed with an extended protein set (including six small proteins plus seven variants of lipase from Thermomyces lanuginosus and spanning a wide range of activation parameters), allowing its to delineate the general trends of the solvation-barrier contributions. Overall, this work supports that proteins sharing the same structure and function but belonging to different organisms may show widely different solvation barriers, possibly as a result of different levels of the selection pressure associated with cooperativity, kinetic stability and related factors. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.