Aspects of Weak Interactions between Folate and Glycine Betaine

Folate, or vitamin B<sub>9</sub>, is an important compound in one-carbon metabolism. Previous studies have found weaker binding of dihydrofolate to dihydrofolate reductase in the presence of osmolytes. In other words, osmolytes are more difficult to remove from the dihydrofolate solvation shell than water; this shifts the equilibrium toward the free ligand and protein species. This study uses vapor-pressure osmometry to explore the interaction of folate with the model osmolyte, glycine betaine. This method yields a preferential interaction potential (μ<sub>23</sub>/<i>RT</i> value). This value is concentration-dependent as folate dimerizes. The μ<sub>23</sub>/<i>RT</i> value also tracks the deprotonation of folate’s N3–O4 keto–enol group, yielding a p<i>K</i><sub>a</sub> of 8.1. To determine which folate atoms interact most strongly with betaine, the interaction of heterocyclic aromatic compounds (as well as other small molecules) with betaine was monitored. Using an accessible surface area approach coupled with osmometry measurements, deconvolution of the μ<sub>23</sub>/<i>RT</i> values into α values for atom types was achieved. This allows prediction of μ<sub>23</sub>/<i>RT</i> values for larger molecules such as folate. Molecular dynamics simulations of folate show a variety of structures from extended to L-shaped. These conformers possess μ<sub>23</sub>/<i>RT</i> values from −0.18 to 0.09 <i>m</i><sup>–1</sup>, where a negative value indicates a preference for solvation by betaine and a positive value indicates a preference for water. This range of values is consistent with values observed in osmometry and solubility experiments. As the average predicted folate μ<sub>23</sub>/<i>RT</i> value is near zero, this indicates folate interacts almost equally well with betaine and water. Specifically, the glutamate tail prefers to interact with water, while the aromatic rings prefer betaine. In general, the more protonated species in our small molecule survey interact better with betaine as they provide a source of hydrogens (betaine is not a hydrogen bond donor). Upon deprotonation of the small molecule, the preference swings toward water interaction because of its hydrogen bond donating capacities.