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Differential scanning calorimetry measures the heat capacity of states and the excess heat associated with transitions that can be induced by temperature change. The integral of the excess heat capacity is the enthalpy for this process. Despite this potentially intimidating sounding physical chemistry background, DSC has found almost universal application in studying biological macromolecules. In the case of proteins, DSC can be used to determine equilibrium thermodynamic stability and folding mechanism but can also be used in a more qualitative manner screening for thermal stability as an indicator for, ligand binding, pharmaceutical formulation or conditions conducive to crystal growth. DSC usually forms part of a wider biophysical characterisation of the biological system of interest and so the literature is diverse and difficult to categorise for the technique in isolation. This review therefore describes the potential uses of DSC in studying protein folding and stability, giving brief examples of applications from the recent literature. There have also been some interesting developments in the use of DSC to determine barrier heights for fast folding proteins and in studying complex protein mixtures such as human plasma that are considered in more detail. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Christopher M Johnson. Differential scanning calorimetry as a tool for protein folding and stability. Archives of biochemistry and biophysics. 2013 Mar;531(1-2):100-9

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PMID: 23022410

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