Enthalpic signature of methonium desolvation revealed in a synthetic host-guest system based on cucurbituril.
Methonium (N(+)Me3) is an organic cation widely distributed in biological systems. As an organic cation, the binding of methonium to protein receptors requires the removal of a positive charge from water. The appearance of methonium in biological transmitters and receptors seems at odds with the large unfavorable desolvation free energy reported for tetramethylammonium (TMA(+)), a frequently utilized surrogate of methonium. Here, we report an experimental system that facilitates incremental internalization of methonium within the molecular cavity of cucurbituril (CB). Using a combination of experimental and computational studies, we show that the transfer of methonium from bulk water (partially solvated methonium state) to the CB cavity (mostly desolvated methonium state) is accompanied by a remarkably small desolvation enthalpy of just 0.5 ± 0.3 kcal·mol(-1), a value significantly less endothermic than those values suggested from gas-phase model studies. Our results are in accord with neutron scattering measurements that suggest methonium produces only a minimal perturbation in the bulk water structure, which highlights the limitations of gas-phase models. More surprisingly, the incremental withdrawal of the methonium surface from water produces a nonmonotonic response in desolvation enthalpy. A partially desolvated state exists, in which a portion of the methonium group remains exposed to solvent. This structure incurs an increased enthalpic penalty of ~3 kcal·mol(-1) compared to other solvation states. We attribute this observation to the pre-encapsulation dewetting of the methonium surface. Together, our results offer a rationale for the wide distribution of methonium in a biological context and suggest limitations to computational estimates of binding affinities based on simple parametrization of solvent-accessible surface area.
Wang, Y; King, JR; Wu, P; Pelzman, DL; Beratan, DN; Toone, EJ
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