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REVIEW: Biochemical Effects of Molecular Crowding

N. A. Chebotareva*, B. I. Kurganov, and N. B. Livanova

Bach Institute of Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninsky pr. 33, Moscow 119071, Russia; fax: (7-095) 954-2732; E-mail: chebotareva@inbi.ras.ru

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received July 21, 2004
Cell cytoplasm contains high concentrations of high-molecular-weight components that occupy a substantial part of the volume of the medium (crowding conditions). The effect of crowding on biochemical processes proceeding in the cell (conformational transitions of biomacromolecules, assembling of macromolecular structures, protein folding, protein aggregation, etc.) is discussed in this review. The excluded volume concept, which allows the effects of crowding on biochemical reactions to be quantitatively described, is considered. Experimental data demonstrating the biochemical effects of crowding imitated by both low-molecular-weight and high-molecular-weight crowding agents are summarized.
KEY WORDS: excluded volume, crowding, protein folding, association, denaturation, aggregation