Indexed on: 20 Aug '96Published on: 20 Aug '96Published in: Biochemistry
Chemical stabilizers are widely used to enhance protein stability, both in nature and in the laboratory. Here, the molecular mechanism of chemical stabilizers is studied using a disulfide trapping assay to measure the effects of stabilizers on thermal backbone dynamics in the Escherichia coli galactose/ glucose binding protein. Two types of backbone fluctuations are examined: (a) relative movements of adjacent surface alpha-helices within the same domain and (b) interdomain twisting motions. Both types of fluctuations are significantly reduced by all six stabilizers tested (glycerol, sucrose, trehalose, L-glucose, D-glucose, and D-galactose), and in each case larger amplitude motions are inhibited more than smaller ones. Motional inhibition does not require a high-affinity stabilizer binding site, indicating that the effects of stabilizers are nonspecific. Overall, the results support the theory that effective stabilizing agents act by favoring the most compact structure of a protein, thereby reducing local backbone fluctuations away from the fully folded state. Such inhibition of protein backbone dynamics may be a general mechanism of protein stabilization in extreme thermal or chemical environments.