Stability and stabilization of globular proteins in solution

J Biotechnol. 2000 May 26;79(3):193-203. doi: 10.1016/s0168-1656(00)00236-4.


Proteins are multifunctional: their amino acid sequences simultaneously determine folding, function and turnover. Correspondingly, evolution selected for compromises between rigidity (stability) and flexibility (folding/function/degradation), to the result that generally the free energy of stabilization of globular proteins in solution is the equivalent to only a few weak intermolecular interactions. Additional increments may come from extrinsic factors such as ligands or specific compatible solutes. Apart from the enthalpic effects, entropy may play a role by reducing the flexibility (cystine bridges, increased proline content), or by water release from residues buried upon folding and association. Additional quaternary interactions and closer packing are typical characteristics of proteins from thermophiles. In halophiles, protein stability and function are maintained by increased ion binding and glutamic acid content, both allowing the protein inventory to compete for water at high salt. Acidophiles and alkalophiles show neutral intracellular pH; proteins facing the outside extremes of pH possess anomalously high contents in ionizable amino acids. Global comparisons of the amino acid compositions and sequences of proteins from mesophiles and extremophiles did not result in general rules of protein stabilization, even after including complete genome sequences into the search. Obviously, proteins are individuals that optimize internal packing and external solvent interactions by very different mechanisms, each protein in its own way. Strategies deduced from specific ultrastable proteins allow stabilizing point mutations to be predicted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Folding
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Solutions / chemistry
  • Temperature


  • Proteins
  • Solutions