Experimental Atom-by-Atom Dissection of Amide-Amide and Amide-Hydrocarbon Interactions in H2O

J Am Chem Soc. 2017 Jul 26;139(29):9885-9894. doi: 10.1021/jacs.7b03261. Epub 2017 Jul 17.


Quantitative information about amide interactions in water is needed to understand their contributions to protein folding and amide effects on aqueous processes and to compare with computer simulations. Here we quantify interactions of urea, alkylated ureas, and other amides by osmometry and amide-aromatic hydrocarbon interactions by solubility. Analysis of these data yields strengths of interaction of ureas and naphthalene with amide sp2O, amide sp2N, aliphatic sp3C, and amide and aromatic sp2C unified atoms in water. Interactions of amide sp2O with urea and naphthalene are favorable, while amide sp2O-alkylurea interactions are unfavorable, becoming more unfavorable with increasing alkylation. Hence, amide sp2O-amide sp2N interactions (proposed n-σ* hydrogen bond) and amide sp2O-aromatic sp2C (proposed n-π*) interactions are favorable in water, while amide sp2O-sp3C interactions are unfavorable. Interactions of all ureas with sp3C and amide sp2N are favorable and increase in strength with increasing alkylation, indicating favorable sp3C-amide sp2N and sp3C-sp3C interactions. Naphthalene results show that aromatic sp2C-amide sp2N interactions in water are unfavorable while sp2C-sp3C interactions are favorable. These results allow interactions of amide and hydrocarbon moieties and effects of urea and alkylureas on aqueous processes to be predicted or interpreted in terms of structural information. We predict strengths of favorable urea-benzene and N-methylacetamide interactions from experimental information to compare with simulations and indicate how amounts of hydrocarbon and amide surfaces buried in protein folding and other biopolymer processes and transition states can be determined from analysis of urea and diethylurea effects on equilibrium and rate constants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amides / chemistry*
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic / chemistry*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Naphthalenes / chemistry
  • Solubility
  • Urea / chemistry
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Amides
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic
  • Naphthalenes
  • Water
  • naphthalene
  • Urea