Pressure perturbation calorimetry, heat capacity and the role of water in protein stability and interactions

A. Cooper, D. Cameron, J. Jakus, G. W. Pettigrew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


it is widely acknowledged, and usually self-evident, that solvent water plays a crucial role in the overall thermodynamics of protein stabilization and biomolecular interactions. Yet we lack experimental techniques that can probe unambiguously the nature of protein-water or ligand-water interactions and how they might change during protein folding or ligand binding. PPC (pressure perturbation calorimetry) is a relatively new technique based on detection of the heat effects arising from application of relatively small pressure perturbations (+/- 5 atm; 1 atm = 101.325 kPa) to dilute aqueous solutions of proteins or other biomolecules. We show here how this can be related to changes in solvation/hydration during protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions. Measurements of 'anomalous' heat capacity effects in a wide variety of biomolecular interactions can also be related to solvation effects as part of a quite fundamental principle that is emerging, showing how the apparently unusual thermodynamics of interactions in water can be rationalized as an inevitable consequence of processes involving the co-operative interaction of multiple weak interactions. This leads to a generic picture of the thermodynamics of protein folding stabilization in which hydrogen-bonding plays a much more prominent role than has been hitherto supposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1547-1550
Number of pages4
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


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