Ice-binding proteins: a remarkable diversity of structures for stopping and starting ice growth

Trends Biochem Sci. 2014 Nov;39(11):548-55. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2014.09.005. Epub 2014 Oct 19.


Antifreeze proteins (AFPs) were discovered in marine fishes that need protection from freezing. These ice-binding proteins (IBPs) are widespread across biological kingdoms, and their functions include freeze tolerance and ice adhesion. Consistent with recent independent evolution, AFPs have remarkably diverse folds that rely heavily on hydrogen- and disulfide-bonding. AFP ice-binding sites are typically flat, extensive, relatively hydrophobic, and are thought to organize water into an ice-like arrangement that merges and freezes with the quasi-liquid layer next to the ice lattice. In this article, the roles, properties, and structure-function interactions of IBPs are reviewed, and their relationship to ice nucleation proteins, which promote freezing at high subzero temperatures, is explored.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Antifreeze Proteins / chemistry*
  • Antifreeze Proteins / metabolism
  • Freezing
  • Ice*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Secondary*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary*


  • Antifreeze Proteins
  • Ice