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Biophys J. Dec 1994; 67(6): 2251–2260.
PMCID: PMC1225608

Calculation of electrostatic effects at the amino terminus of an alpha helix.


It is generally believed that the electrostatic field arising from the dipolar charge distribution in alpha helices is important for protein structure and function. We report a calculation of the electrostatic potential and field at the amino terminus of an alpha helix in water, obtained from a finite difference solution to the Poisson-Boltzmann equation. This method takes into account the detailed helix shape and charge distribution, as well as solvent, and generalized ionic strength effects. The calculated potential and field are found to be in good agreement with the experimentally observed helix-induced Stark effect and pKa shifts of a probe at the N-terminus of a stable, monomeric alpha-helical peptide (Lockhart and Kim, 1992, 1993). Ionic screening effects are reproduced at low salt concentrations. Deviations at higher salt concentrations may result from specific ion effects (specific ion-solute and/or ion-solvent interactions). The FDPB method was used to analyze the contributions from each residue, charged side chains, and solvent to the helix potential and field. Backbone contributions come primarily from the first one to two helical turns. Charged side chains contribute to helix-induced pKa shifts for certain probe-peptide combinations, even at relatively large distances from the probe (> 14 A).

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Selected References

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