Is the first hydration shell of lysozyme of higher density than bulk water?
Characterization of the physical properties of protein surface hydration water is critical for understanding protein structure and folding. Here, using molecular dynamics simulation, we provide an explanation of recent x-ray and neutron solution scattering data that indicate that the density of water on the surface of lysozyme is significantly higher than that of bulk water. The simulation-derived scattering profiles are in excellent agreement with the experiment. In the simulation, the 3-Å-thick first hydration layer is 15% denser than bulk water. About two-thirds of this increase is the result of a geometric contribution that would also be present if the water was unperturbed from the bulk. The remaining third arises from modification of the water structure and dynamics, involving approximately equal contributions from shortening of the average water–water O–O distance and an increase in the coordination number. Variation in the first hydration shell density is shown to be determined by topographical and electrostatic properties of the protein surface. On average, denser water is found in depressions on the surface in which the water dipoles tend to be aligned parallel to each other by the electrostatic field generated by the protein atoms.