Crowding effects on protein association: Effect of interactions between crowding agents

Jun Soo Kim, Arun Yethiraj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The cell cytoplasm is a dense environment where the presence of inert cosolutes can significantly alter the rates of protein folding and protein association reactions. Most theoretical studies focus on hard sphere crowding agents and quantify the effect of excluded volume on reaction rates. In this work the effect of interactions between the crowding agents on the thermodynamics of protein association is studied using computer simulation. Three cases are considered, where the crowding agents are (i) hard spheres, (ii) hard spheres with additional attractive or repulsive interactions, and (iii) chains of hard spheres. Reactants and products of the protein association are modeled as hard spheres. Although crowding effects are sensitive to the shape of the reaction product, in most cases the excess free energy difference between the product and reactants (nonideality factor) is insensitive to the interactions between crowding agents, due to a cancellation of effects. The simulations therefore suggest that the hard sphere model of crowding agents has a surprisingly large regime of validity and should be sufficient for a qualitative understanding of the thermodynamics of crowding effects when the interactions of associating proteins with crowding agents other than excluded volume interactions are not significant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-353
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2011


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