Highly precise characterization of the hydration state upon thermal denaturation of human serum albumin using a 65 GHz dielectric sensor†
The biological functions of proteins depend on harmonization with hydration water surrounding them. Indeed, the dynamical transition of proteins, such as thermal denaturation, is dependent on the changes in the mobility of hydration water. However, the role of hydration water during dynamical transition is yet to be fully understood due to technical limitations in precisely characterizing the amount of hydration water. A state-of-the-art CMOS dielectric sensor consisting of 65 GHz LC resonators addressed this issue by utilizing the feature that oscillation frequency sensitively shifts in response to the complex dielectric constant at 65 GHz with extremely high precision. This study aimed to establish an analytical algorithm to derive the hydration number from the measured frequency shift and to demonstrate the transition of hydration number upon the thermal denaturation of human serum albumin. The determined hydration number in the native state drew a “global” hydration picture beyond the first solvation shell, with substantially reduced uncertainty of the hydration number (about ±1%). This allowed the detection of a rapid increase in the hydration number at about 55 °C during the heating process, which was in excellent phase with the irreversible rupture of the α-helical structure into solvent-exposed extended chains, whereas the hydration number did not trace the forward path in the subsequent cooling process. Our result indicates that the weakening of water hydrogen bonds trigger the unfolding of the protein structure first, followed by the changes in the number of hydration water as a consequence of thermal denaturation.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2020 PCCP HOT Articles