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Role of Internal Water on Protein Thermal Stability: The Case of Homologous G Domains

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8939-8949
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Part B
Issue number29
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2015
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


In this work, we address the question of whether the enhanced stability of thermophilic proteins has a direct connection with internal hydration. Our model systems are two homologous G domains of different stability: the mesophilic G domain of the elongation factor thermal unstable protein from E. coli and the hyperthermophilic G domain of the EF-1α protein from S. solfataricus. Using molecular dynamics simulation at the microsecond time scale, we show that both proteins host water molecules in internal cavities and that these molecules exchange with the external solution in the nanosecond time scale. The hydration free energy of these sites evaluated via extensive calculations is found to be favorable for both systems, with the hyperthermophilic protein offering a slightly more favorable environment to host water molecules. We estimate that, under ambient conditions, the free energy gain due to internal hydration is about 1.3 kcal/mol in favor of the hyperthermophilic variant. However, we also find that, at the high working temperature of the hyperthermophile, the cavities are rather dehydrated, meaning that under extreme conditions other molecular factors secure the stability of the protein. Interestingly, we detect a clear correlation between the hydration of internal cavities and the protein conformational landscape. The emerging picture is that internal hydration is an effective observable to probe the conformational landscape of proteins. In the specific context of our investigation, the analysis confirms that the hyperthermophilic G domain is characterized by multiple states and it has a more flexible structure than its mesophilic homologue. (Figure Presented).