Introductory Lecture: Interpreting and predicting Hofmeister salt ion and solute effects on biopolymer and model processes using the solute partitioning model†
Understanding how Hofmeister salt ions and other solutes interact with proteins, nucleic acids, other biopolymers and water and thereby affect protein and nucleic acid processes as well as model processes (e.g. solubility of model compounds) in aqueous solution is a longstanding goal of biophysical research. Empirical Hofmeister salt and solute “m-values” (derivatives of the observed standard free energy change for a model or biopolymer process with respect to solute or salt concentration m3) are equal to differences in chemical potential derivatives: m-value = Δ(dμ2/dm3) = Δμ23, which quantify the preferential interactions of the solute or salt with the surface of the biopolymer or model system (component 2) exposed or buried in the process. Using the solute partitioning model (SPM), we dissect μ23 values for interactions of a solute or Hofmeister salt with a set of model compounds displaying the key functional groups of biopolymers to obtain interaction potentials (called α-values) that quantify the interaction of the solute or salt per unit area of each functional group or type of surface. Interpreted using the SPM, these α-values provide quantitative information about both the hydration of functional groups and the competitive interaction of water and the solute or salt with functional groups. The analysis corroborates and quantifies previous proposals that the Hofmeister anion and cation series for biopolymer processes are determined by ion-specific, mostly unfavorable interactions with hydrocarbon surfaces; the balance between these unfavorable nonpolar interactions and often-favorable interactions of ions with polar functional groups determine the series null points. The placement of urea and glycine betaine (GB) at opposite ends of the corresponding series of nonelectrolytes results from the favorable interactions of urea, and unfavorable interactions of GB, with many (but not all) biopolymer functional groups. Interaction potentials and local-bulk partition coefficients quantifying the distribution of solutes (e.g. urea, glycine betaine) and Hofmeister salt ions in the vicinity of each functional group make good chemical sense when interpreted in terms of competitive noncovalent interactions. These interaction potentials allow solute and Hofmeister (noncoulombic) salt effects on protein and nucleic acid processes to be interpreted or predicted, and allow the use of solutes and salts as probes of interface formation and large-scale conformational changes in the steps of a biopolymer mechanism.