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JILA study finds crowding has big effects on biomolecules
Date:5/22/2014

an the typical dilute solutions used in test-tube studies.

Although PEG was previously known to encourage the compactor folded states of biomolecules, the JILA results are the first to determine the underlying processes. The results were not obvious, in that crowding might seem likely to suppress RNA unfolding. JILA researchers suggest that instead, the opposite process is at work: Crowding lowers the energy required for RNA to achieve the transition state for folding, making it easier to fold.

The JILA study also analyzed temperature-related data to show that the boost in the RNA folding rate constant is largely due to the disorder (or entropy) of the mixture, rather than simply the tendency for RNA to stabilize in the shape with the lowest energy.

In addition to collecting experimental data, JILA researchers used a simple particle model to estimate what would happen in the extremely crowded environment of the cell. The results suggest that the RNA folding equilibrium constant could potentially increase more than 4,000-foldresulting in a dramatically different biochemical compositionwhile the folding rate could increase more than 1,000-fold. JILA researchers speculate that such extreme effects could profoundly influence both the rates and preferred directions of complex biochemical pathways in cells. Further studies are needed to determine whether the model can be extended to other cell contents and other RNA structures.


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Contact: Laura Ost
laura.ost@nist.gov
303-497-4880
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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