Solvent accessible surface area (SASA) of proteins has always been considered as a decisive factor in protein folding and stability studies. It is defined as the surface characterized around a protein by a hypothetical centre of a solvent sphere with the van der Waals contact surface of the molecule. Based on SASA values, amino acid residues of a protein can be classified as buried or exposed. There are various types of SASAs starting from relative solvent accessibility to absolute surface areas. Direct estimation of accurate SASAs of folded proteins experimentally at the atomic level is not possible. However, the SASA of a native protein can be estimated computationally from the atomic coordinates. Similarly, various simulation methods are available to compute the SASA of a protein in its unfolded state. In efforts to estimate the changes in SASA related to the protein folding, a number of the unfolded state models have been proposed. In this review, we have summarized different algorithms and computational tools for SASA estimations. Furthermore, online resources for SASA calculations and representations have also been discussed in detail. This review will be useful for protein chemists and biologists for the accurate measurements of SASA and its subsequent applications for the calculation of various biophysical and thermodynamic properties of proteins.
Keywords: Crystal structure, protein folding, protein stability, solvent accessible surface area, thermodynamic properties, unfolded state.