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Differential Scanning Calorimetry in Life Science: Thermodynamics, Stability, Molecular Recognition and Application in Drug Design

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All biological phenomena depend on molecular recognition, which is either intermolecular like in ligand binding to a macromolecule or intramolecular like in protein folding. As a result, understanding the relationship between the structure of proteins and the energetics of their stability and binding with others (bio)molecules is a very interesting point in biochemistry and biotechnology. It is essential to the engineering of stable proteins and to the structure-based design of pharmaceutical ligands. The parameter generally used to characterize the stability of a system (the folded and unfolded state of the protein for example) is the equilibrium constant (K) or the free energy (ΔG°), which is the sum of enthalpic (ΔH°) and entropic (ΔS°) terms. These parameters are temperature dependent through the heat capacity change (ΔCp). The thermodynamic parameters ΔH° and ΔCp can be derived from spectroscopic experiments, using the van't Hoff method, or measured directly using calorimetry. Along with isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) is a powerful method, less described than ITC, for measuring directly the thermodynamic parameters which charaterize biomolecules.

In this article, we summarize the principal thermodynamics parameters, describe the DSC approach and review some systems to which it has been applied. DSC is much used for the study of the stability and the folding of biomolecules, but it can also be applied in order to understand biomolecular interactions and can thus be an interesting technique in the process of drug design.

Keywords: binding; calorimetry; dsc; stability; thermodynamics

Document Type: Review Article


Affiliations: University of Namur, Laboratoire de Chimie Biologique Structurale, 61 rue de Bruxelles, B-5000 Namur, Belgium;

Publication date: 2005-08-01

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