The solvation of the enzyme Candida antarctica lipase B (CAL-B) was studied in eight different ionic liquids (ILs). The influence of enzyme–ion interactions on the solvation of CAL-B and the structure of the enzyme–IL interface are analyzed. CAL-B and ILs are described with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations in combination with an atomistic empirical force field. The considered cations are based on imidazolium or guanidinium that are paired with nitrate, tetrafluoroborate or hexafluorophosphate anions. The interactions of CAL-B with ILs are dominated by Coulomb interactions with anions, while the second largest contribution stems from van der Waals interactions with cations. The enzyme–ion interaction strength is determined by the ion size and the magnitude of the ion surface charge. The solvation of CAL-B in ILs is unfavorable compared to water because of large formation energies for the CAL-B solute cages in ILs. The internal energy in the IL and of CAL-B increases linearly with the enzyme–ion interaction strength. The average electrostatic potential on the surface of CAL-B is larger in ILs than in water, due to a weaker screening of charged enzyme residues. Ion densities increased moderately in the vicinity of charged residues and decreased close to non-polar residues. An aggregation of long alkyl chains close to non-polar regions and the active site entrance of CAL-B are observed in one IL that involved long non-polar decyl groups. In ILs that contain 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium cations, the diffusion of one or two cations into the active site of CAL-B occurs during MD simulations. This suggests a possible obstruction of the active site in these ILs. Overall, the results indicate that small ions lead to a stronger electrostatic screening within the solvent and stronger interactions with the enzyme. Also a large ion surface charge, when more hydrophilic ions are used, increases enzyme–IL interactions. An increase of these interactions destabilizes the enzyme and impedes enzyme solvation due to an increase in solute cage formation energies.
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