Is it the shape of the cavity, or the shape of the water in the cavity?
1 Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
2 Infection Innovative Medicines Unit, Chemistry Department AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, R&D Boston 35 Gatehouse Drive, Waltham, MA 02451, USA
3 Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University 60 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
a e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
b These authors contributed equally to this work.
Received: 15 September 2012
Revised: 30 March 2013
Published online: 2 May 2013
Historical interpretations of the thermodynamics characterizing biomolecular recognition have marginalized the role of water. An important (even, perhaps, dominant) contribution to molecular recognition in water comes from the “hydrophobic effect,” in which non-polar portions of a ligand interact preferentially with non-polar regions of a protein. Water surrounds the ligand, and water fills the binding pocket of the protein: when the protein-ligand complex forms, and hydrophobic surfaces of the binding pocket and the ligand approach one another, the molecules (and hydrogen-bonded networks of molecules) of water associated with both surfaces rearrange and, in part, entirely escape into the bulk solution. It is now clear that neither of the two most commonly cited rationalizations for the hydrophobic effect–an entropy-dominated hydrophobic effect, in which ordered waters at the surface of the ligand, and water at the surface of the protein, are released to the bulk upon binding, and a “lock-and-key” model, in which the surface of a ligand interacts directly with a surface of a protein having a complementary shape–can account for water-mediated interactions between the ligand and the protein, and neither is sufficient to account for the experimental observation of both entropy- andenthalpy-dominated hydrophobic effects. What is now clear is that there is no single hydrophobic effect, with a universally applicable, common, thermodynamic description: different processes (i.e., partitioning between phases of different hydrophobicity, aggregation in water, and binding) with different thermodynamics, depend on the molecular-level details of the structures of the molecules involved, and of the aggregates that form. A “water-centric” description of the hydrophobic effect in biomolecular recognition focuses on the structures of water surrounding the ligand, and of water filling the binding pocket of the protein, both before and after binding. This view attributes the hydrophobic effect to changes in the free energy of the networks of hydrogen bonds that are formed, broken, or re-arranged when two hydrophobic surfaces approach (but do not necessarily contact) one another. The details of the molecular topography (and the polar character) of the mole- cular surfaces play an important role in determining the structure of these networks of hydrogen-bonded waters, and in the thermodynamic description of the hydrophobic effect(s). Theorists have led the formulation of this “water-centric view”, although experiments are now supplying support for it. It poses complex problems for would-be “designers” of protein-ligand interactions, and for so-called “rational drug design”.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2013