glycerol - mode of actions ?

Shaun D. Black shaun at
Wed Jun 25 13:36:57 EST 1997

Hi All,

    I'd love to see this become a thread.  Everyone uses glycerol but
noone seems to know how it works.  It stabilizes proteins against denaturation, it keeps cells "happy".  Great stuff, but how does it work?

    For my $0.02, I simply note that it is a small polyol:


It should be a mild hydrogen bond acceptor and donor, so it won't
be aggressive at helix or sheet H-bond competition (like urea and
guanidine are).  Thus, it shouldn't be effective in protein denaturation.

I've often thought that it may mimic hydrations water, but diffuse
more slowly, so it keeps the protein more stable.  Also, since it is
slightly hydrophobic, it may have access to certain nonpolar surface
regions that water may not.

I may be totally off here, but these are my "armchair hypotheses"
about glycerol.  Can someone enlighten us???

Best regards, 


  = Shaun D. Black, PhD   | Internet e-mail address:   shaun at  =
  = Dept. of Biochemistry | University of Texas Health Center at Tyler  =
  = Tyler, TX  75710      | World Wide Web:  =

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