A structural basis for the interaction of urea with lysozyme

Ashley C.W. Pike, K. Ravi Acharya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of urea on the crystal structure of hen eggwhite lysozyme has been investigated using X‐ray crystallography. High resolution structures have been determined from crystals grown in the presence of 0, 0.7, 2, 3, 4, and 5 M urea and from crystals soaked in 9 M urea. All the forms are essentially isomorphous with the native type I1 crystals, and the derived structures exhibit excellent geometry and RMS differences from ideality in bond distances and angles. Comparison of the urea complex structures with the native enzyme (type II form, at 1.5 Å resolution) indicates that the effect of urea is minimal over the concentration range studied. The mean difference in backbone conformation between the native enzyme and its urea complexes varies from 0.18 to 0.49 Å. Conformational changes are limited to flexible surface loops (Thr 69‐Asn 74, Ser 100‐Asn 103), the active site loop (Asn 59‐Cys go), and the C‐terminus (Cys 127‐Leu 129). Urea molecules are bound to distinct sites on the surface of the protein. One molecule is bound to the active site cleft's C subsite, at all concentrations, in a fashion analogous to that of the N‐acetyl substituent of substrate and inhibitor sugars normally bound to this site. Occupation of this subsite by urea alone does not appear to induce the conformational changes associated with inhibitor binding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-710
Number of pages5
JournalProtein Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994


  • crystal structure
  • lysozyme
  • urea denaturation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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