We demonstrate, by molecular dynamics simulations, that water confined between a pair of insect hyperactive antifreeze proteins from the longhorn beetle Rhagium inquisitor
is discontinuously expelled as the two proteins approach each other at a certain distance. The extensive striped hydrophobic–hydrophilic pattern on the surface, comprising arrays of threonine residues, enables water to form three independent ice channels through the assistance of hydroxyl groups, even at 300 K. The transformation is reminiscent of a freezing–melting transition rather than a drying transition and governs the stable protein–protein separation in the evaluation of the potential of mean force. The collectivity of water penetration or expulsion and the hysteresis in the time scale of ten nanoseconds predict a potential first-order phase transition at the limit of infinite size and provide a new framework for the water-mediated interaction between solutes.
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