Arginine has been used to suppress protein aggregation and protein-protein or protein-surface interactions during protein refolding and purification. While its biotechnology applications are gradually expanding, the mechanism of these effects of arginine has not been fully elucidated. Arginine is more effective at higher concentrations, an indication of weak interactions with the proteins. The effects of weakly interacting additives, such as arginine, on protein solubility, stability and aggregation have been explained from three different approaches: i.e., (1) the effects of additives on the structure of water, (2) the interactions of additives with the amino acid side chains and peptide bonds and (3) the preferential interactions of additives with the proteins. Here we have examined these properties of arginine and compared with those of other additives, e.g., guanidine hydrochloride (GdnHCl) and certain amino acids and amines. GdnHCl is a strong salting-in agent and denatures proteins, while betaine is a protein stabilizer. Several amino acids and amine compounds, including betaine, which stabilize the proteins, are strongly excluded; i.e., the proteins are preferentially hydrated in these solutions. On the other hand, GdnHCl preferentially binds to the proteins. Arginine is intermediate between these two extreme cases and shows a more complicated pattern of interactions with the proteins. The effects of additives on water structure, e.g., the surface tension of aqueous solution of the additives and the solubility of amino acids in the presence of additives also shed light on the mechanism of the effects of the additives on protein aggregation. While arginine increases the surface tension of water, it favorably interacts with most amino acid side chains and the peptide bonds, a property shared with GdnHCl. Thus, we propose that while arginine is similar to GdnHCl in the amino acid level, arginine interacts with the proteins differently from GdnHCl.
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