Cosolvent and Crowding Effects on the Temperature and Pressure Dependent Conformational Dynamics and Stability of Globular Actin
Actin can be found in nearly all eukaryotic cells and is responsible for many different cellular functions. The polymerization process of actin has been found to be among the most pressure sensitive processes in vivo. In this study, we explored the effects of chaotropic and kosmotropic cosolvents, such as urea and the compatible osmolyte trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), and, to mimic a more cell-like environment, crowding agents on the pressure and temperature stability of globular actin (G-actin). The temperature and pressure of unfolding as well as thermodynamic parameters upon unfolding, such as enthalpy and volume changes, have been determined by fluorescence spectroscopy over a wide range of temperatures and pressures, ranging from 10 to 80 °C and from 1 to 3000 bar, respectively. Complementary high-pressure NMR studies revealed additional information on the existence of native-like conformational substates of G-actin as well as a molten-globule-like state preceding the complete pressure denaturation. Different from the chaotropic agent urea, TMAO increases both the temperature and pressure stability for the protein most effectively. The Gibbs free energy differences of most of the native substates detected are not influenced significantly by TMAO. In mixtures of these osmolytes, urea counteracts the stabilizing effect of TMAO to some extent. Addition of the crowding agent Ficoll increases the temperature and pressure stability even further, thereby allowing sufficient stability of the protein at temperature and pressure conditions encountered under extreme environmental conditions on Earth.