Molecular Dynamics of Ion Hydration in the Presence of Small Carboxylated Molecules and Implications for Calcification

LM Hamm and AF Wallace and PM Dove, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 114, 10488-10495 (2010).

DOI: 10.1021/jp9108893

The aspartate-rich macromolecules found at nucleation sites of calcifying organisms are widely implicated in regulating biomineral formation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that their ability to influence the onset of nucleation and composition of calcified structures may arise from effects on ion hydration. This study investigates the interactions of acidic amino acids and dipeptides with hydrated cations using molecular dynamics. By monitoring the hydration states of Mg2+, Ca2+, and Sr2+ during their approach to negatively charged molecules, we show that carboxylate moieties of Asp promote dehydration of Ca2+ and Sr2+. A contact ion pair (CIP) is not required to disrupt cation hydration, and we demonstrate that reductions and rearrangements of first shell water can begin at ion-Asp separation distances as large as similar to 4.9 angstrom for Ca2+ and similar to 5.1 angstrom for Sr2+. CIP formation between Ca2+ and Sr2+ and carboxylate groups decreases the total first shell coordination number from an average of 8.0 and 8.4 in bulk water to 7.5 and 8.0, respectively. The energy barrier to physically replacing waters about Ca2+ with carboxylate oxygen atoms is small (similar to 2 kcal/mol) as compared to a somewhat larger barrier for Sr2+ (similar to 4 kcal/mol). This may be explained by differences in the strength of Coulombic interactions between the cations and the Asp, resulting in different paths of approach toward Asp for Ca2+ and Sr2+. In contrast, the primary solvation shell of Mg2+ remains largely unchanged during interactions with Asp until the abrupt physical replacement of water by carboxylate oxygen atoms, which comes at a high energetic cost. These insights support the claim that carboxylated biomolecules increase the growth rate of calcite by lowering the energy barrier to Ca2+ dehydration. The findings also suggest a physical basis for the idea that ion-specific behaviors of Ca2+ and Mg2+ in cellular systems arise from a critical balance between water binding in the ion hydration shells versus their interactions with ligands present in intracellular environments.

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