Graph Theory and Ion and Molecular Aggregation in Aqueous Solutions

Jun Ho Choi, Hochan Lee, Hyung Ran Choi, Minhaeng Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


In molecular and cellular biology, dissolved ions and molecules have decisive effects on chemical and biological reactions, conformational stabilities, and functions of small to large biomolecules. Despite major efforts, the current state of understanding of the effects of specific ions, osmolytes, and bioprotecting sugars on the structure and dynamics of water H-bonding networks and proteins is not yet satisfactory. Recently, to gain deeper insight into this subject, we studied various aggregation processes of ions and molecules in high-concentration salt, osmolyte, and sugar solutions with time-resolved vibrational spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulation methods. It turns out that ions (or solute molecules) have a strong propensity to self-assemble into large and polydisperse aggregates that affect both local and long-range water H-bonding structures. In particular, we have shown that graph-theoretical approaches can be used to elucidate morphological characteristics of large aggregates in various aqueous salt, osmolyte, and sugar solutions. When ion and molecular aggregates in such aqueous solutions are treated as graphs, a variety of graph-theoretical properties, such as graph spectrum, degree distribution, clustering coefficient, minimum path length, and graph entropy, can be directly calculated by considering an ensemble of configurations taken from molecular dynamics trajectories. Here we show percolating behavior exhibited by ion and molecular aggregates upon increase in solute concentration in high solute concentrations and discuss compelling evidence of the isomorphic relation between percolation transitions of ion and molecular aggregates and water H-bonding networks. We anticipate that the combination of graph theory and molecular dynamics simulation methods will be of exceptional use in achieving a deeper understanding of the fundamental physical chemistry of dissolution and in describing the interplay between the self-aggregation of solute molecules and the structure and dynamics of water.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-149
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Review of Physical Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 20

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


  • Graph theory
  • Hofmeister effect
  • Ion aggregation
  • Molecular dynamics simulation
  • Osmolyte effect
  • Percolation
  • Salt solubility
  • Sugar aggregation
  • Vibrational spectroscopy
  • Water hydrogen-bonding network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Graph Theory and Ion and Molecular Aggregation in Aqueous Solutions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this