Osmolyte Research

Cells survive fluctuations in osmolality by accumulating and depleting highly soluble, usually neutral, small organic compounds. Natural selection has converged on a small set of such molecules, called osmolytes. The biophysical characterization of osmolytes, with respect to proteins, has centered on tertiary structure stability. Data about their effect on protein assemblies, whose formation is driven by surface interactions, is lacking. Published in JACS, researchers in the Pielak and Brustad groups investigate the effects of osmolytes and related molecules on the stabilities of a protein and a protein complex. The results demonstrate that osmolytes are not differentiated from other cosolutes by their stabilizing influences on protein tertiary structure but by their compatibility with the interactions between protein surfaces that organize the cellular interior.