Reports

The role of solvent viscosity in the dynamics of protein conformational changes

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Science  26 Jun 1992:
Vol. 256, Issue 5065, pp. 1796-1798
DOI: 10.1126/science.1615323

Abstract

Nanosecond lasers were used to measure the rate of conformational changes in myoglobin after ligand dissociation at ambient temperatures. At low solvent viscosities the rate is independent of viscosity, but at high viscosities it depends on approximately the inverse first power of the viscosity. Kramers theory for unimolecular rate processes can be used to explain this result if the friction term is modified to include protein as well as solvent friction. The theory and experiment suggest that the dominant factor in markedly reducing the rate of conformational changes in myoglobin at low temperatures (less than 200 K) is the very high viscosity (greater than 10(7) centipoise) of the glycerol-water solvent. That is, at low temperatures conformational substates may not be "frozen" so much as "stuck."

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