Macroscopic characterizations of hydrophobicity (e.g., contact angle measurements) do not extend to the surfaces of proteins and nanoparticles. Molecular measures of hydrophobicity of such surfaces need to account for the behavior of hydration water. Theory and state-of-the-art simulations suggest that water density fluctuations provide such a measure; fluctuations are enhanced near hydrophobic surfaces and quenched with increasing surface hydrophilicity. Fluctuations affect conformational equilibria and dynamics of molecules at interfaces. Enhanced fluctuations are reflected in enhanced cavity formation, more favorable binding of hydrophobic solutes, increased compressibility of hydration water, and enhanced water-water correlations at hydrophobic surfaces. These density fluctuation–based measures can be used to develop practical methods to map the hydrophobicity/philicity of heterogeneous surfaces including those of proteins. They highlight that the hydrophobicity of a group is context dependent and is significantly affected by its environment (e.g., chemistry and topography) and especially by confinement. The ability to include information about hydration water in mapping hydrophobicity is expected to significantly impact our understanding of protein-protein interactions as well as improve drug design and discovery methods and bioseparation processes.
Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering – Annual Reviews
Published: Jul 15, 2011