Aqueous ionic liquids and their influence on peptide conformations: denaturation and dehydration mechanisms†
Low concentrated aqueous ionic liquids (ILs) and their influence on protein structures have attracted a lot of interest over the last few years. This can be mostly attributed to the fact that aqueous ILs, depending on the ion species involved, can be used as protein protectants or protein denaturants. Atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are performed in order to study the influence of different aprotic ILs on the properties of a short hairpin peptide. Our results reveal distinct binding and denaturation effects for 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium (EMIM) in combination with different anions, namely, chloride (CL), tetrafluoroborate (BF4) and acetate (ACE). The simulation outcomes demonstrate that the studied ILs with larger anions reveal a more pronounced accumulation behavior of the individual ion species around the peptide, which is accomplished by a stronger dehydration effect. We can relate these findings to the implications of the Kirkwood–Buff theory, which provides a thermodynamic explanation for the denaturation strength in terms of the IL accumulation behavior. The results for the spatial distribution functions, the binding energies and the local/bulk partition coefficients are in good agreement with metadynamics simulations in order to determine the energetically most stable peptide conformations. The free energy landscapes indicate a decrease of the denaturation strength in the order EMIM/ACE, EMIM/BF4 and EMIM/CL, which coincides with a decreasing size of the anion species. An analysis of the potential binding energies reveals that this effect is mainly of enthalpic nature.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2017 PCCP HOT Articles