Role of Solvent Properties of Water in Crowding Effects Induced by Macromolecular Agents and Osmolytes

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Solvent properties of water in aqueous solutions of polyethylene glycols of various molecular weights, L-proline, betaine, and a series of chlorides of varied concentrations are assayed using three solvatochromic dyes. The properties include solvent dipolarity/polarizability, hydrogen bond donor acidity, and hydrogen bond acceptor basicity. These properties are also evaluated in mixtures of two polymers, polymer and osmolyte, and two osmolytes. It is shown that linear combinations of solvent dipolarity/polarizability and hydrogen bond donor acidity assayed in individual solutions of crowders strongly correlate with the effects of the crowders on the stability of various proteins and nucleic acids reported in the literature. The solvent properties of water in aqueous mixtures of two macromolecular crowders, two osmolytes, or mixtures of an osmolyte and a macromolecular crowder vary differently for various solvent properties. The overall effects of the two components in the mixture on a given solvent property of water may be additive, reduced or enhanced depending on the particular composition of the mixture. It is hypothesized that changes in the solvent properties of water are related to changes in the water hydrogen-bonding structuring. It is suggested that the observed crowder-induced changes in the solvent properties of water should be taken into account in theoretical considerations of crowding effects in biological systems.

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Molecular BioSystems, v. 13, issue 12, p. 2551-2563