Hydration in protein folding: Thermal unfolding/refolding of human serum albumin

Rajib Kumar Mitra, Sudarson Sekhar Sinha, Samir Kumar Pal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human serum albumin (HSA) is known to undergo both reversible and irreversible thermal unfolding and refolding, depending upon the experimental conditions (end temperature) at neutral pH. In this report we have used high precision densimetric and ultrasonic measurements to determine the apparent specific volume (φv) and compressibility (φk) of HSA at different unfolded and refolded states at two different end temperatures, 55°C and 70°C. The unfolded and refolded states were characterized using dynamic light scattering (DLS), circular dichroism (CD), picosecond-resolved fluorescence decay, and anisotropy of the single-tryptophan residue in HSA (Trp214). Both the unfolded states were allowed to refold by cooling wherein the former and latter processes were found to be reversible and irreversible, respectively, in nature. The results obtained from the densimetric and ultrasonic measurements reveal that the apparent specific volume and compressibility of the protein in the reversible protein unfolding process is preserved upon restoration of HSA to ambient temperature. However, a significant change in φv and φk occurs in the process of irreversible protein refolding (from 70 to 20°C). The experimental observation is rationalized in terms of the exposure of domain IIA to an aqueous environment, resulting in the swelling of the protein to a higher hydrodynamic diameter. Our studies attempt to explore the extent of hydration associated with the structural integrity of the popular protein HSA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10224-10229
Number of pages6
Issue number20
StatePublished - 25 Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


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