• Open Access

A natural and readily available crowding agent: NMR studies of proteins in hen egg white



In vitro studies of biological macromolecules are usually performed in dilute, buffered solutions containing one or just a few different biological macromolecules. Under these conditions, the interactions among molecules are diffusion limited. On the contrary, in living systems, macromolecules of a given type are surrounded by many others, at very high total concentrations. In the last few years, there has been an increasing effort to study biological macromolecules directly in natural crowded environments, as in intact bacterial cells or by mimicking natural crowding by adding proteins, polysaccharides, or even synthetic polymers. Here, we propose the use of hen egg white (HEW) as a simple natural medium, with all features of the media of crowded cells, that could be used by any researcher without difficulty and inexpensively. We present a study of the stability and dynamics behavior of model proteins in HEW, chosen as a prototypical, readily accessible natural medium that can mimic cytosol. We show that two typical globular proteins, dissolved in HEW, give NMR spectra very similar to those obtained in dilute buffers, although dynamic parameters are clearly affected by the crowded medium. The thermal stability of one of these proteins, measured in a range comprising both heat and cold denaturation, is also similar to that in buffer. Our data open new possibilities to the study of proteins in natural crowded media. Proteins 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.