The Journal of chemical physics

Effect of trimethylamine-N-oxide on pressure-induced dissolution of hydrophobic solute.

PMID 22998267


Molecular dynamics simulations are performed to study the effects of increasing trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) concentration on the pressure-induced dissolution of hydrophobic solutes immersed in water. Such systems are of interest mainly because pressure increases the dissolution of hydrophobic protein interior causing protein denaturation and TMAO acts to offset the protein denaturing effect of high hydrostatic pressures. In view of this, in this study, methane molecules are considered as model hydrophobic molecules and simulations are performed for four independent TMAO solutions each at four different pressures ranging from 2 to 8 kbar. From potentials of mean force calculations, it is found that application of pressure reduces the free energy difference between contact minimum (CM) and solvent-separated (SSM) minimum of hydrophobic solute, suggesting dissolution at high pressures. TMAO, on the other hand, increases the relative stability of CM state of methane molecules relative to its SSM state. High packing efficiency of water molecules around the hydrophobic solute at high pressure is observed. Also observed are TMAO-induced enhancement of water structure and direct hydrogen-bonding interaction between TMAO and water and the correlated dehydration of hydrophobic solute. From hydrogen bond properties and dynamics calculations, it is observed that pressure increases average number of water-water hydrogen bonds while reduces their life-times. In contrast, TMAO reduces water-water hydrogen bonding but enhances their life-times. These results suggest that TMAO can reduce water penetration into the protein interior by enhancing water structure and also forming hydrogen bonds with water and hence counteracts protein unfolding.