Organic solutes such as urea, methylamines, polyols and amino acid can accumulate in the cytoplasm of cells to compensate for hyperosmotic conditions in the external medium. Whereas urea is considered to be typical of solutes that destabilize structure and function of proteins, methylamines, polyols and some amino acids appear to have the opposite effect, and can also compensate for the perturbing effects of urea. These effects have been extensively analyzed for a variety of proteins in terms of global changes in enzyme structure and acceleration or inhibition of overall reaction rates. Here the influence of these solutes on sarcoplasmic reticulum and plasma membrane (Ca2+ + Mg2+)ATPases is reviewed. The focus is on the changes induced by “perturbing” and “stabilizing” solutes at specific steps of the catalytic cycles of these enzymes, which can run forward (leading to ATP hydrolysis) and backward (leading to ATP synthesis). Structural changes promoted by osmolytes are correlated with functional changes, especially those that are related to energy coupling.

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