Different roles of electrostatics in heat and in cold: Adaptation by citrate synthase

Sandeep Kumar, Ruth Nussinov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrostatics plays a major role in heat adaptation by thermophilic proteins. Here we ask whether electrostatics similarly contributes to cold adaptation in psychrophilic proteins. We compare the sequences and structures of citrate synthases from the psychrophile Arthobacter Ds2-3R, from chicken, and from the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus. The three enzymes share similar packing, burial of nonpolar surface area, and main-chain hydrogen bonding. However, both psychrophilic and hyperthermophilic citrate synthases contain more charged residues, salt bridges, and salt-bridge networks than the mesophile. The electrostatic free-energy contributions toward protein stability by individual charged residues show greater variabilities in the psychrophilic citrate synthase than in the hyperthermophilic enzyme. The charged residues in the active-site regions of the psychrophile are more destabilizing than those in the active-site regions of the hyperthermophile. In the hyperthermophilic enzyme, salt bridges and their networks largely cluster in the active-site regions and at the dimer interface. In contrast, in the psychrophile, they are more dispersed throughout the structure. On average, salt bridges and their networks provide greater electrostatic stabilization to the thermophilic citrate synthase at 100°C than to the psychrophilic enzyme at 0°C. Electrostatics appears to play an important role in both heat and cold adaptation of citrate synthase. However, remarkably, the role may be different in the two types of enzyme: In the hyperthermophile, it may contribute to the integrity of both the protein dimer and the active site by possibly countering conformational disorder at high temperatures. On the other hand, in the psychrophile at low temperatures, electrostatics may contribute to enhance protein solvation and to ensure active-site flexibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-290
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - 5 Mar 2004


  • Citrate synthases
  • Electrostatic interactions
  • Protein structures
  • Psychrophiles
  • Thermophiles


Dive into the research topics of 'Different roles of electrostatics in heat and in cold: Adaptation by citrate synthase'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this