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Keywords:

  • denaturation;
  • guanidine hydrochloride;
  • heat capacity changes;
  • m values;
  • protein folding;
  • protein stability;
  • solvent-accessible surface area;
  • urea

Abstract

Denaturant m values, the dependence of the free energy of unfolding on denaturant concentration, have been collected for a large set of proteins. The m value correlates very strongly with the amount of protein surface exposed to solvent upon unfolding, with linear correlation coefficients of R = 0.84 for urea and R = 0.87 for guanidine hydrochloride. These correlations improve to R = 0.90 when the effect of disulfide bonds on the accessible area of the unfolded protein is included. A similar dependence on accessible surface area has been found previously for the heat capacity change (ΔCp), which is confirmed here for our set of proteins. Denaturant m values and heat capacity changes also correlate well with each other. For proteins that undergo a simple two-state unfolding mechanism, the amount of surface exposed to solvent upon unfolding is a main structural determinant for both m values and ΔCp.