This study is a systematic attempt to understand the roles of osmolytes in protecting proteins against denaturing stress. Thermal denaturation of cytochrome c has been studied in the presence of various concentrations of all L-amino acids that are more hydrophobic than glycine and have a solubility of 0.1 M or higher in water at 25 degrees C. The basic observations are as follows. (1) Arginine and histidine destabilize the native protein; both Tm (the midpoint of thermal transition) and delta GDH2O (25 degrees C) (the Gibbs energy of stabilization) decrease with increasing amino acid concentration. (2) Isoleucine, leucine and phenylalanine have no effect on Tm and deltaGDH2O (25 degrees C). (3) Valine and less hydrophobic amino acids stabilize the protein in terms of Tm but deltaGDH2O (25 degrees C) is unchanged. This observation was confirmed by the study of isothermal denaturation of cytochrome c by guanidinium chloride which suggested that delta GDH2O is independent of osmolyte concentration, but Cm (the midpoint of transition) is increased in their presence. (4) In the case of stabilizers, change in Tm/mol of amino acid decreases with increasing hydrophobicity of these osmolytes.
The guanidinium chloride (GdmCl) denaturation of RNAase A, lysozyme and metmyoglobin was investigated at several pH values by using absorbance measurements at 287, 300 and 409 nm respectively. From these measurements the free-energy change on denaturation, delta Gapp., was calculated, assuming a two-state mechanism, and values of delta Gapp. at zero concentration of the denaturant were measured. For each protein all delta Gapp. values were adjusted to pH 7.00 by using the appropriate relationship between delta Gapp. and pH. Dependence of the adjusted delta Gapp. value on GdmCl concentration increases for metmyoglobin and decreases for the other two proteins as the denaturant concentration decreases. It has been shown that these are expected results if the presence of the acid-denatured state during the GdmCl denaturation of proteins is considered.