On the Measurement of Cooperativity and the Physico-Chemical Meaning of the Hill Coefficient

Author(s): Andrea Bellelli*, Emanuele Caglioti

Journal Name: Current Protein & Peptide Science

Volume 20 , Issue 9 , 2019

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Graphical Abstract:


Cooperative ligand binding is a fundamental property of many biological macromolecules, notably transport proteins, hormone receptors, and enzymes. Positive homotropic cooperativity, the form of cooperativity that has greatest physiological relevance, causes the ligand affinity to increase as ligation proceeds, thus increasing the steepness of the ligand-binding isotherm. The measurement of the extent of cooperativity has proven difficult, and the most commonly employed marker of cooperativity, the Hill coefficient, originates from a structural hypothesis that has long been disproved. However, a wealth of relevant biochemical data has been interpreted using the Hill coefficient and is being used in studies on evolution and comparative physiology. Even a cursory analysis of the pertinent literature shows that several authors tried to derive more sound biochemical information from the Hill coefficient, often unaware of each other. As a result, a perplexing array of equations interpreting the Hill coefficient is available in the literature, each responding to specific simplifications or assumptions. In this work, we summarize and try to order these attempts, and demonstrate that the Hill coefficient (i) provides a minimum estimate of the free energy of interaction, the other parameter used to measure cooperativity, and (ii) bears a robust statistical correlation to the population of incompletely saturated ligation intermediates. Our aim is to critically evaluate the different analyses that have been advanced to provide a physical meaning to the Hill coefficient, and possibly to select the most reliable ones to be used in comparative studies that may make use of the extensive but elusive information available in the literature.

Keywords: Cooperativity, free energy of interaction, allostery, Adair’s equation, two-state model, proteins.

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Article Details

Year: 2019
Published on: 16 September, 2019
Page: [861 - 872]
Pages: 12
DOI: 10.2174/1389203720666190718122404
Price: $65

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