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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Aug 17;96(17):9459-64.

Cation-pi interactions in structural biology.

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  • 1Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


Cation-pi interactions in protein structures are identified and evaluated by using an energy-based criterion for selecting significant sidechain pairs. Cation-pi interactions are found to be common among structures in the Protein Data Bank, and it is clearly demonstrated that, when a cationic sidechain (Lys or Arg) is near an aromatic sidechain (Phe, Tyr, or Trp), the geometry is biased toward one that would experience a favorable cation-pi interaction. The sidechain of Arg is more likely than that of Lys to be in a cation-pi interaction. Among the aromatics, a strong bias toward Trp is clear, such that over one-fourth of all tryptophans in the data bank experience an energetically significant cation-pi interaction.

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