The Effects of Crowding Agents Dextran-70k and PEG-8k on Actin Structure and Unfolding Reaction

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Recently, an increasing number of studies on proteins' structure, stability and folding are trying to bring the experimental conditions closer to those existing in a living cell, namely to the conditions of macromolecular crowding. In vitro such conditions are typically imitated by the “inert” highly water-soluble polymers with different hydrodynamic dimensions. In this work, the effects of crowded milieu on the structure and conformational stability of actin, which is a key component of the muscle contraction system, was examined. The crowded milieu was simulated by high concentrations of PEG-8k or Dextran-70k. It was revealed that both crowding agents decelerated but not inhibited actin unfolding and made a compact state of inactivated actin thermodynamically more favorable in comparison with the unfolded state. At the same time, the high viscosity of the solution of crowding agents slowed down all processes and especially inactivated actin formation, since it involves the interaction of 14–16 partially unfolded actin molecules. The effects of crowding agent were larger when its hydrodynamic dimensions were closer to the size of globular actin.

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Journal of Molecular Structure, v. 1140, p. 46-51