Ligand binding analysis and screening by chemical denaturation shift

Arne Schön, Richard K. Brown, Burleigh M. Hutchins, Ernesto Freire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The identification of small molecule ligands is an important first step in drug development, especially drugs that target proteins with no intrinsic activity. Toward this goal, it is important to have access to technologies that are able to measure binding affinities for a large number of potential ligands in a fast and accurate way. Because ligand binding stabilizes the protein structure in a manner dependent on concentration and binding affinity, the magnitude of the protein stabilization effect elicited by binding can be used to identify and characterize ligands. For example, the shift in protein denaturation temperature (Tm shift) has become a popular approach to identify potential ligands. However, Tm shifts cannot be readily transformed into binding affinities, and the ligand rank order obtained at denaturation temperatures (≥60 C) does not necessarily coincide with the rank order at physiological temperature. An alternative approach is the use of chemical denaturation, which can be implemented at any temperature. Chemical denaturation shifts allow accurate determination of binding affinities with a surprisingly wide dynamic range (high micromolar to sub nanomolar) and in situations where binding changes the cooperativity of the unfolding transition. In this article, we develop the basic analytical equations and provide several experimental examples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-57
Number of pages6
JournalAnalytical biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Chemical denaturation
  • Ligand binding analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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