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Electrostatic interactions in proteins: Calculations of the electrostatic term of free energy and the electrostatic potential field

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The pH-dependence of the electrostatic energy of interactions between titratable groups is calculated for some well studied globular proteins: basic pancreatic trypsin inhibitor, sperm whale myoglobin and tuna cytochrome c. The calculations are carried out using a semi-empirical appraach in terms of the macroscopic model based on the Kirkwood-Tanford theory. The results are discussed in the light of their physicochemical and biological properties. It was found that the pH-dependence of the electrostatic energy correlates with the III–IV transition of cytochrome c. The electrostatic field of the cysteine proteinase inhibitor, cystatin, was calculated in two ways. In the first one, the electrostatic field created by the pH dependent charges of the ionizable groups and peptide dipoles was calculated using the approach proposed. In the second one, the finite-difference method was used. The results obtained by the two methods are in overall agreement. The calculated field was discussed in terms of the binding of cystatin to papain.

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Correspondence to A. D. Karshikov.

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Karshikov, A.D., Engh, R., Bode, W. et al. Electrostatic interactions in proteins: Calculations of the electrostatic term of free energy and the electrostatic potential field. Eur Biophys J 17, 287–297 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00254286

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Key words

  • Electrostatic interactions
  • pH-dependence
  • energy proteins