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Arginine “Magic”: Guanidinium Like-Charge Ion Pairing from Aqueous Salts to Cell Penetrating Peptides

Vazdar, Mario; Heyda, Jan; Mason, Philip E.; Tesei, Giulio; Allolio, Christoph; Lund, Mikael; Jungwirth, Pavel (2018) Arginine “Magic”: Guanidinium Like-Charge Ion Pairing from Aqueous Salts to Cell Penetrating Peptides. Accounts of Chemical Research, 51 (6). pp. 1455-1464. ISSN 0001-4842

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It is a textbook knowledge that charges of the same polarity repel each other. For two monovalent ions in the gas phase at a close contact this repulsive interaction amounts to hundreds of kilojoules per mole. In aqueous solutions, however, this Coulomb repulsion is strongly attenuated by a factor equal to the dielectric constant of the medium. The residual repulsion, which now amounts only to units of kilojoules per mole, may be in principle offset by attractive interactions. Probably the smallest cationic pair, where a combination of dispersion and cavitation forces overwhelms the Coulomb repulsion, consists of two guanidinium ions in water. Indeed, by a combination of molecular dynamics with electronic structure calculations and electrophoretic, as well as spectroscopic, experiments, we have demonstrated that aqueous guanidinium cations form (weakly) thermodynamically stable like- charge ion pairs. The importance of pairing of guanidinium cations in aqueous solutions goes beyond a mere physical curiosity, since it has significant biochemical implications. Guanidinium chloride is known to be an efficient and flexible protein denaturant. This is due to the ability of the orientationally amphiphilic guanidinium cations to disrupt various secondary structural motifs of proteins by pairing promiscuously with both hydrophobic and hydrophilic groups, including guanidinium- containing side chains of arginines. The fact that the cationic guanidinium moiety forms the dominant part of the arginine side chain implies that the like-charge ion pairing may also play a role for interactions between peptides and proteins. Indeed, arginine– arginine pairing has been frequently found in structural protein databases. In particular, when strengthened by a presence of negatively charged glutamate, aspartate, or C-terminal carboxylic groups, this binding motif helps to stabilize peptide or protein dimers and is also found in or near active sites of several enzymes. The like-charge pairing of the guanidinium side-chain groups may also hold the key to the understanding of the arginine “magic”, that is, the extraordinary ability of arginine-rich polypeptides to passively penetrate across cellular membranes. Unlike polylysines, which are also highly cationic but lack the ease in crossing membranes, polyarginines do not exhibit mutual repulsion. Instead, they accumulate at the membrane, weaken it, and might eventually cross in a concerted, “train-like” manner. This behavior of arginine-rich cell penetrating peptides can be exploited when devising smart strategies how to deliver in a targeted way molecular cargos into the cell.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: M.V. thanks the Croatian Science Foundation, Project No. UIP-2014-09-6090. C.A. thanks the Minerva Foundation for a postdoctoral fellowship. M.L. thanks the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, the Science Faculty project grant program for research with neutrons and synchrotron light, Lunarc in Lund for computational resources, and ESRF for providing beam time. P.J. acknowledges support from the European Regional Development Fund OP RDE (project ChemBioDrug no. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000729).
Uncontrolled Keywords: guanidinium; ammonium; arginine; lysine; molecular simulations; cell penetrating peptides
Subjects: NATURAL SCIENCES > Chemistry
Divisions: Division of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry
Project titleProject leaderProject codeProject type
Molekularni aspekti oksidativnih procesa u stanicama-MolOxStressMario VazdarUIP-2014-09-6090HRZZ
Depositing User: Mario Vazdar
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2019 12:32
DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.8b00098

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