Globular proteins, or spheroproteins are one of the two main protein classes, comprising "globe"-like proteins that are more or less soluble in aqueous solutions (where they form colloidal solutions). This main characteristic helps distinguishing them from fibrous proteins (the other class), which are practically insoluble.
The term globin can refer more specifically to proteins including the globin fold.
Globular structure and solubility
The term globular protein is quite old (dating probably from the 19th century) and is now somewhat archaic given the hundreds of thousands of proteins and more elegant and descriptive structural motif vocabulary. The globular nature of these proteins can be determined without the means of modern techniques, but only by using ultracentrifuges or dynamic light scattering techniques.
The spherical structure is induced by the protein's tertiary structure. The molecule's apolar (hydrophobic) amino acids are bounded towards the molecule's interior whereas polar (hydrophilic) amino acids are bound outwards, allowing dipole-dipole interactions with the solvent, which explains the molecule's solubility.
Globular protein is only marginally stable because the free energy released when the protein folded into its native conformation is relatively small. This is because protein folding requires entropic cost. As a primary sequence of a polypeptide chain can form numerous conformations, native globular structure restricts its conformation to a few only. It results in a decrease in randomness, although non-covalent interactions such as hydrophobic interactions stabilizes the structure.
Although it is still unknown how proteins fold up naturally, new evidence has helped advance understanding. Part of the protein folding problem is that several noncovalent, weak interactions are formed, such as Hydrogen bonds and Van der Waals interactions. Via several techniques, the mechanism of protein folding is currently being studied. Even in the protein’s denatured state, it can be folded into the correct structure. Globular proteins seem to have two mechanisms for protein folding, either the diffusion-collision model or nucleation condensation model, although recent findings have shown globular proteins, such as PTP-BL PDZ2, which fold with characteristic features of both models. These new findings have shown that the transition states of proteins may affect the way that it folds. The folding of globular proteins has also recently been connected to treatment of diseases and anti-cancer ligands have been developed which bind to the folded but not the natural protein. These studies in return have shown that the folding of globular proteins affects its function.
Recall the second law of thermodynamics, the free energy difference between unfolded and folded state is contributed by enthalpy and entropy changes. As the free energy difference in globular protein results from folding into its native conformation is small, it is marginally stable, thus providing a rapid turnover rate and provide effective control of protein degradation and synthesis.
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