[Nature Communications] Real-time monitoring of hydrophobic aggregation reveals a critical role of c
The hydrophobic interaction drives nonpolar solutes to aggregate in aqueous solution, and hence plays a critical role in many fundamental processes in nature. An important property intrinsic to hydrophobic interaction is its cooperative nature, which is originated from the collective motions of water hydrogen bond networks surrounding hydrophobic solutes. This property is widely believed to enhance the formation of hydrophobic core in proteins. However, cooperativity in hydrophobic interactions has not been successfully characterized by experiments. Here, we quantify cooperativity in hydrophobic interactions by real-time monitoring the aggregation of hydrophobic solute (hexaphenylsilole, HPS) in a microfluidic mixer. We show that association of a HPS molecule to its aggregate in water occurs at sub-microsecond, and the free energy change is −5.8 to −13.6 kcal mol−1. Most strikingly, we discover that cooperativity constitutes up to 40% of this free energy. Our results provide quantitative evidence for the critical role of cooperativity in hydrophobic interactions.
Liguo Jiang, Siqin Cao, Peter Pak-Hang Cheung, Xiaoyan Zheng, Chris Wai Tung Leung, Qian Peng, Zhigang Shuai, Ben Zhong Tang, Shuhuai Yao & Xuhui Huang Nature Communications 8, Article number: 15639 (2017) doi:10.1038/ncomms15639