Osmolytes found endogenously in almost all living beings play an important role in regulating cell volume under harsh environment. Here, to address the longstanding questions about the underlying mechanism of osmolyte effects, we use femtosecond mid-IR pump-probe spectroscopy with two different IR probes that are the OD stretching mode of HDO and the azido stretching mode of azido-derivatized poly(ethylene glycol) dimethyl ether (PEGDME). Our experimental results show that protecting osmolytes bind strongly with water molecules and dehydrate polymer surface, which results in promoting intramolecular interactions of the polymer. By contrast, urea behaves like water molecules without significantly disrupting water H-bonding network and favors extended and random-coil segments of the polymer chain by directly participating in solvation of the polymer. Our findings highlight the importance of direct interaction between urea and macromolecule, while protecting osmolytes indirectly affect the macromolecule through enhancing the water-osmolyte interaction in a crowded environment, which is the case that is often encountered in real biological systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)