How do we estimate, from thermodynamic measurements, the number of water molecules adsorbed or released from biomolecules as a result of a biochemical process such as binding and allosteric effects? Volumetric and osmotic stress analyses are established methods for estimating water numbers; however, these techniques often yield conflicting results. In contrast, Kirkwood-Buff theory offers a novel way to calculate excess hydration number from volumetric data, provides a quantitative condition to gauge the accuracy of osmotic stress analysis, and clarifies the relationship between osmotic and volumetric analyses. I have applied Kirkwood-Buff theory to calculate water numbers for two processes: (i) the allosteric transition of hemoglobin and (ii) the binding of camphor to cytochrome P450. I show that osmotic stress analysis may overestimate hydration number changes for these processes.
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