Pressure-temperature phase diagrams of biomolecules

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311 Citations (Scopus)


The pressure-temperature phase diagram of various biomolecules is reviewed. Special attention is focused on the elliptic phase diagram of proteins. The phenomenological thermodynamic theory describing this diagram explains the heat, cold and pressure denaturations in a unified picture. The limitations and possible developments of this theory are discussed as well. It is pointed out that a more complex diagram can be obtained when the intermolecular interactions are also taken into account. In this case metastable states appear on the pressure-temperature (p-T) diagram due to intermolecular interactions. Pressure-temperature phase diagrams of other biopolymers are also discussed. While the p-T diagrams of helix-coil transition of nucleic acids and of gel-liquid crystal transition of lipid bilayers are non-elliptical, those of gelatinization of starch and of phase separation of some synthetic polymers show an elliptic profile, similar to that of proteins. Finally, the p-T diagram of bacterial inactivation is shown to be elliptic. From the point of view of basic science, this fact shows that the key factor of inactivation should be the protein type, and from the viewpoint of practical applications, it serves as the theoretical basis of pressure treatment of biosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-29
Number of pages19
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Protein Structure and Molecular Enzymology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 25 2002


  • Biopolymer
  • Phase diagram
  • Pressure
  • Protein
  • Unfolding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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