Sugars, alcohols, or salts, when added to food, affects the heat denaturation of proteins and the sol-gel transition of macromolecules. Such an effect of cosolvents has long been known and exploited; yet understanding how they work at a molecular level has been a matter of scientific debate for decades, because of the lack of a definitive theory which can provide a microscopic explanation. Here we show that a rigorous statistical thermodynamic theory, the Kirkwood-Buff (KB) theory, provides not only a long-awaited microscopic explanation but also a clear guideline on how to analyze experimental data. KB theory synthesizes the classical Wyman-Tanford formula and partial molar volume, and enables the determination of biomolecule-water and biomolecule-cosolvent interactions solely from experimental data. Nothing beyond the materials in introductory physical chemistry or chemical thermodynamics textbooks is necessary to follow the derivations presented in this review.
- Kirkwood-Buff theory
- Statistical thermodynamics