Site-Specific Hydration Dynamics of Globular Proteins and the Role of Constrained Water in Solvent Exchange with Amphiphilic Cosolvents

The thermodynamic driving forces for protein folding, association, and function are often determined by protein–water interactions. With a novel covalently bound labeling approach, we have used sensitive vibrational probes, site-selectively conjugated to two lysozyme variantsin conjunction with ultrafast two-dimensional infrared (2D-IR) spectroscopyto investigate directly the protein–water interface. By probing alternatively a topologically flat, rigid domain and a flexible domain, we find direct experimental evidence for spatially heterogeneous hydration dynamics. The hydration environment around globular proteins can vary from exhibiting bulk-like hydration dynamics to dynamically constrained water, which results from stifled hydrogen bond switching dynamics near extended hydrophobic surfaces. Furthermore, we leverage preferential solvation exchange to demonstrate that the liberation of dynamically constrained water is a sufficient driving force for protein–surface association reactions. These results provide an intuitive picture of the dynamic aspects of hydrophobic hydration of proteins, illustrating an essential function of water in biological processes.