In this paper we make the following points: Water is perturbed within several angstroms of the surfaces of soluble molecules. Removal of this water can require significant amounts of work, seen as an exponentially varying "hydration force" with respect to molecular separation. The favorable and specific attractions that occur in molecular assembly or in ligand binding imply that the specific association between the molecular surfaces is stronger than the association of those surfaces with water. The specificity of biochemical association is not simply a matter of protein-protein interaction but also of competing protein-water interactions. Small structural changes in molecular surfaces can evoke large changes in the contact energy of hydrated surfaces; surface hydration and the energetics of water displacement are a likely mechanism for the contact specificity of intracellular associations integrating the cell matrix.

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