Stabilization of halophilic malate dehydrogenase. Academic Article uri icon


  • Malate dehydrogenase from the extreme halophile, Halobacterium marismortui, is stable only in highly concentrated solutions of certain salts. Previous work has established that its physiological environment is saturated in KCl; it remains soluble is saturated NaCl or KCl solutions; also it unfolds in solutions containing less than 2.5 M-NaCl or -KCl, salt concentrations which are still relatively high. New data show that the structure of this enzyme can be stabilized in a range of high concentrations of Mg2+ or other "salting-in" ions, also with exceptional protein-solvent interactions. "Salting-in" ions, contrary to stabilizing protein structure, usually favour unfolding. These, and most other results concerning the structure, stability and solvent interactions of the protein cannot be understood in terms of the usual effects of salts on protein structure. In this paper, a novel stabilization model is proposed for halophilic malate dehydrogenase that can account for all observations so far. The model results from experiments on the protein in salt solutions chosen for their different effects on protein stability (potassium phosphate, a strongly "salting-out" agent, and MgCl2, which is "salting-in"), and previously published data from NaCl and KCl solutions (mildly "salting-out"). Enzymic activity and stability measurements were combined with neutron scattering, ultracentrifugation and quasi-elastic light-scattering experiments. The analysis showed that the structure of the protein in solution as well as the dominant stabilization mechanisms were different in different salt solutions in which this enzyme is active. Thus, in molar concentrations of phosphate ions, stabilization and hydration are similar to those of non-halophilic soluble proteins, in which the hydrophobic effect dominates. In high concentrations of KCl, NaCl or MgCl2, on the other hand, solution particles are formed in which the protein dimer interacts with large numbers of salt and water molecules (the mass of solvent molecules involved depends on the nature of the salt but it is approximately equivalent to the protein mass). It is proposed that, under these conditions, the hydrophobicity of the protein core is too weak to stabilize the folded structure and the main stabilization mechanism is the formation of co-operative hydrate bonds between the protein and hydrated salt ions. Model predictions are in agreement with all experimental results, such as the different numbers of solvent molecules found in the solution particles formed with different salts, the loss of the exceptional solvent interactions concomitant with unfolding at non-physiological salt concentrations, and the different temperature denaturation curves observed for different salt solutions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

published proceedings

  • J Mol Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Zaccai, G., Cendrin, F., Haik, Y., Borochov, N., & Eisenberg, H.

citation count

  • 97

complete list of authors

  • Zaccai, G||Cendrin, F||Haik, Y||Borochov, N||Eisenberg, H

publication date

  • August 1989