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  1. The hydrophobicity of proteins and similar surfaces, which display chemical heterogeneity at the nanoscale, drives countless aqueous interactions and assemblies. However, predicting how surface chemical patterning influences hydrophobicity remains a challenge. Here, we address this challenge by using molecular simulations and machine learning to characterize and model the hydrophobicity of a diverse library of patterned surfaces, spanning a wide range of sizes, shapes, and chemical compositions. We find that simple models, based only on polar content, are inaccurate, whereas complex neural network models are accurate but challenging to interpret. However, by systematically incorporating chemical correlations between surface groups into our models, we are able to construct a series of minimal models of hydrophobicity, which are both accurate and interpretable. Our models highlight that the number of proximal polar groups is a key determinant of hydrophobicity and that polar neighbors enhance hydrophobicity. Although our minimal models are trained on particular patch size and shape, their interpretability enables us to generalize them to rectangular patches of all shapes and sizes. We also demonstrate how our models can be used to predict hot-spot locations with the largest marginal contributions to hydrophobicity and to design chemical patterns that have a fixed polar content butmore »vary widely in their hydrophobicity. Our data-driven models and the principles they furnish for modulating hydrophobicity could facilitate the design of novel materials and engineered proteins with stronger interactions or enhanced solubilities.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 29, 2023
  2. The aversion of hydrophobic solutes for water drives diverse interactions and assemblies across materials science, biology, and beyond. Here, we review the theoretical, computational, and experimental developments that underpin a contemporary understanding of hydrophobic effects. We discuss how an understanding of density fluctuations in bulk water can shed light on the fundamental differences in the hydration of molecular and macroscopic solutes; these differences, in turn, explain why hydrophobic interactions become stronger upon increasing temperature. We also illustrate the sensitive dependence of surface hydrophobicity on the chemical and topographical patterns the surface displays, which makes the use of approximate approaches for estimating hydrophobicity particularly challenging. Importantly, the hydrophobicity of complex surfaces, such as those of proteins, which display nanoscale heterogeneity, can nevertheless be characterized using interfacial water density fluctuations; such a characterization also informs protein regions that mediate their interactions. Finally, we build upon an understanding of hydrophobic hydration and the ability to characterize hydrophobicity to inform the context-dependent thermodynamic forces that drive hydrophobic interactions and the desolvation barriers that impede them.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 10, 2023
  3. Interactions between proteins lie at the heart of numerous biological processes and are essential for the proper functioning of the cell. Although the importance of hydrophobic residues in driving protein interactions is universally accepted, a characterization of protein hydrophobicity, which informs its interactions, has remained elusive. The challenge lies in capturing the collective response of the protein hydration waters to the nanoscale chemical and topographical protein patterns, which determine protein hydrophobicity. To address this challenge, here, we employ specialized molecular simulations wherein water molecules are systematically displaced from the protein hydration shell; by identifying protein regions that relinquish their waters more readily than others, we are then able to uncover the most hydrophobic protein patches. Surprisingly, such patches contain a large fraction of polar/charged atoms and have chemical compositions that are similar to the more hydrophilic protein patches. Importantly, we also find a striking correspondence between the most hydrophobic protein patches and regions that mediate protein interactions. Our work thus establishes a computational framework for characterizing the emergent hydrophobicity of amphiphilic solutes, such as proteins, which display nanoscale heterogeneity, and for uncovering their interaction interfaces.

  4. Guest Editors Arthi Jayaraman and Amish Patel introduce this themed collection of papers showcasing the latest research on the molecular design and engineering of bioinspired, biological and/or biomimetic materials.