How does solvation in the cell affect protein folding and binding?

Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2018 Feb:48:23-29. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2017 Oct 13.


The cellular environment is highly diverse and capable of rapid changes in solute composition and concentrations. Decades of protein studies have highlighted their sensitivity to solute environment, yet these studies were rarely performed in situ. Recently, new techniques capable of monitoring proteins in their natural context within a live cell have emerged. A recurring theme of these investigations is the importance of the often-neglected cellular solvation environment to protein function. An emerging consensus is that protein processes in the cell are affected by a combination of steric and non-steric interactions with this solution. Here we explain how protein surface area and volume changes control these two interaction types, and give recent examples that highlight how even mild environmental changes can alter cellular processes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / ultrastructure
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Models, Chemical
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Prokaryotic Cells / ultrastructure
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Folding
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Red Fluorescent Protein
  • Solubility
  • Thermodynamics


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins