Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another catch-up

Apologies for a longer-than usual silence – I’m waiting to resolve some access problems. In the meantime, and before the backlog gets too awesome, I’ll have to work with mostly just abstracts here.

I’ve been meaning to comment for a long time on a study by David Chandler and his colleagues that extends his notion of fluctuation-driven hydrophobic forces (A. J. Patel et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 1632-1637; 2010 – paper here). Since the original Lum, Chandler & Weeks paper on ‘drying-induced attraction’, David has been developing the idea that what we’re dealing with at a hydrophobic surface is not so much a static gas-like layer but a density depletion due to enhanced density fluctuations. Here he and his coworkers use simulations to show that these fluctuations are similar to those at a water-air interface, and that the resulting depletion does seem to drive the hydrophobic attraction between two such surfaces.

Francesco Mallamace and colleagues have reported experimental evidence of the dynamical crossover in supercooled water that they have previously postulated as an explanation of the glass-like transition in supercooled hydrated proteins (F. Mallamace et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 1870-1878; 2010 – paper here). They have used NMR and neutron scattering to look at water confined in a nanotube, water in the hydration layer of lysozyme and water in a methanol mixture. In all cases they see the predicted change in temperature-dependence of viscosity from Arrhenius to non-Arrhenius form, and say that this seems to coincide with the development of an extended H-bonded network.

Yurina Sekine and Tomoko Ikeda-Fukazawa at Meiji University in Japan appear to be proposing another kind of transition in glassy peptide-like polymers at 37 C. They see a shift in the Raman O-H stretching mode of bound water (to poly-N,N-dimethylacrylamide) at this temperature (J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 3419-3425; 2010 – paper here). I’m not sure that I fully underastand what is going on here without seeing the full paper, but the transition seems to be marking a switch between probing the dynamics of the hydration layer I general below 37 C and the waters bound specifically to polar groups above 37 C.

More on protein denaturation. Angel Garcia and colleagues at RPI have used MD simulations to look at the mechanism of urea-induced unfolding of the Trp-cage peptide (D. R. Canchi et al., JACS 132, 2338-2344; 2010 – paper here). Like earlier studies with urea, they find that the denaturation seems to stem from direct interactions between the denaturant and the peptide chain – via electrostatic and van der Walls interactions rather than hydrogen-bonding.

Nohad Gresh and coworkers in Paris find using molecular mechanics simulations that the energetics of docking of inhibitors to a protein called the focal adhesion kinase depends critically on a group of 5-7 structured water molecules at the binding site (B. de Courcy et al., JACS 132, 3312-3320; 2010 – paper here).

Biman Bagchi and colleagues at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore say that the behaviour of bound water within the major groove of DNA is different from that within the minor groove (B. Jana et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 3633-3638; 2010 – paper here). Their MD simulations of hydrated ploy-AT and poly-GC show that the minor-groove water has slower dynamics due to greater tetrahedral ordering.

How cryoprotectants such as poly-sugars work is still not clear. Fabio Bruni and colleagues have looked into this using neutron diffraction to study the hydration of the disaccharide trehalose (S. E. Pagnotta et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 4904-4908; 2010 – paper here). One hypothesis has been that the tetrahedral structure of water is strongly modified in the hydration shell of trehalose. But the experiments show little sign of this; indeed, rather few water molecules are hydrogen-bonded to the disaccharide. Another blow for a ‘modified-water-structure’ view.

How about urea? That question has been much debated, but Abdenacer Idrissi at the Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille and colleagues consider the issue using MD simulations (A. Idrissi et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 4731-4738; 2010 – paper here). They find that as the concentration of urea in solution is increased, the tetrahedrality of water declines in favour of an ‘unstructured’ arrangement. What this means for ‘water structure’ as such is perhaps quite subtle, given the method used to compute ‘tetrahedrality’ (i.e. a comparison of the mutual orientation of a ‘probe’ water molecule and an adjacent ‘tetrahedral’ group of them). To be continued, I’ve no doubt.

And also on hydration of small organic molecules, Richard Saykally and colleagues have used XAS to look at the hydration shells of alanine and sarcosine (the smallest peptoid or ploy-N-substituted glycine) (J. S. Uejio et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 4702-4709; 2010 – paper here). The two are hydrated in rather different ways: the sarcosine XAS spectrum is much less affected by hydration than is alanine, but much more affected by conformational changes.

You’d have thought that the situation of water confined in slit-like pores or between parallel plates would have been exhaustively studied by now. But Yubo Fan and Yi Qin Gao at Texas A&M report MD studies of this geometry, using either hydrophobic plates or alkane monolayers, for relatively large separations (up to 800 Å) (J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 4246-4251; 2010 – paper here). They say that the effects of confinement are evident in the centre of the pore even for such large separations, with the water in the centre being (surprisingly, I think) of somewhat reduced density and more ice-like. This surprises me very much, to the extent that I am sceptical without seeing the full paper (I don’t know what the temperatures are). I’d not expect to see any significant departure from bulk-like water beyond distances of, say, 2 nm or so from the surfaces.

Daisuke Matsuoka and Masayoshi Nakasako in Japan have developed a program for predicting the hydration structures around the hydrophilic surfaces of proteins, based on their crystal structures (J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 4652-4663; 2010 – paper here). This simply sums the hydration distribution functions for each solvent-exposed polar atom. I’d have expected there to be more cooperativity than this would seem to allow, but it seems that the program works well when tested against known structures, e.g. lysozyme, bacteriorhodopsin, aquaporin.

An unusual approach to the hydration of proteins is taken by Vitaly Kocherbitov and Thomas Arnebrant at Malmö University (Langmuir 26, 3918-3922; 2010 – paper here). They adapt a method commonly used to study adsorption at the solid-gas interface, based on a BET-type analysis but allowing for heterogeneity of the surface. This may apply to the case of ‘dry’ proteins exposed to a humid environment, but presumably not to proteins in solution.

Amit Galande and colleagues at SRI International in Virginia report some designed peptides that will fold in solution via intramolecular hydrogen bonds, regardless of competition from solvating water molecules (B. Song et al., Langmuir 132, 4508-4509; 2010 – paper here). I can’t immediately see if there are generic principles here that get the free-energy balance right.

From time to time, efforts are made to find a computationally cheap way to approximate water structure in complex simulations. Kevin Hadley and Clare McCabe at Vanderbilt University suggest one such (J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 4590-4599; 2010 – paper here). They propose a coarse-graining in which four-molecule water clusters can be represented by single ‘beads’ in a simulation.

Sason Shaik and coworkers have extended their investigations of the role of water in heme catalysis (P. Vidossich et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 5161-5169; 2010 – paper here; and D. Fishelovitch et al., J. Phys. Chem. 10.1021/jp101894k – paper here). They have computed the free-energy landscape for the position of the water molecule that provides a crucial hydrogen-bonded bridge between peroxide (complexed to ferryloxo) and a histidine residue in the active site of peroxidase, showing that the ‘reactive configuration’ corresponds to a minority population, albeit one that is relevant on the timescale of catalysis. And they clarify the roles of a water channel in the active site of cytochrome P450, showing how this facilitates proton transport.

In a related vein, the role of water in the active site of ribonuclease H is studied by C. Satheesan Babu and Carmay Lim in Taiwan (JACS 10.1021/ja101494m; paper here). They find that two different binding modes of magnesium ions, which act as cofactors, are distinguished by having a water-rich and water-depleted environment. This might have implications for the design of inhibitors.

Hydration of the head groups of a phosphatidylcholine film is investigated by Yuki Nagata and Shaul Mukamel at UC Irvine using SFG, revealing three distinct environments for the water molecules at the interface (JACS 10.1021/ja100508n; paper here).

A curious paper by Michele Pavanello at the University of Arizona and coworkers looks at how solvation influences hole transport in DNA, which is relevant to the issue of radiation-induced damage (M. Pavanello et al., J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 4416-4423; 2010 – paper here). The study looks at (theoretical) DNA conductivity of a DNA double strand contacted by an STM tip, and finds that hydration slows hole transport significantly.

I don’t really know what to make of a paper by Dariusz Czapiewski and Jan Zielkiewicz at the Gdansk University of Technology on the structures of hydration shells around peptides (J. Phys. Chem. B 114, 4536-4550; 2010 – paper here). As far as I can tell, they use some approximate analytical method to calculate the degree of ‘water ordering’ in the hydration shells, and conclude that it is not very different from the bulk, but is ‘pseudo-rigid’, with strengthened hydrogen bonds. That would surprise me.

I have a few other bits and pieces to add at some stage, but this brings things relatively up to date for now.