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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 17;103(42):15457-62. Epub 2006 Oct 9.

A seven-helix coiled coil.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Coiled-coil proteins contain a characteristic seven-residue sequence repeat whose positions are designated a to g. The interacting surface between alpha-helices in a classical coiled coil is formed by interspersing nonpolar side chains at the a and d positions with hydrophilic residues at the flanking e and g positions. To explore how the chemical nature of these core amino acids dictates the overall coiled-coil architecture, we replaced all eight e and g residues in the GCN4 leucine zipper with nonpolar alanine side chains. Surprisingly, the alanine-containing mutant forms a stable alpha-helical heptamer in aqueous solution. The 1.25-A resolution crystal structure of the heptamer reveals a parallel seven-stranded coiled coil enclosing a large tubular channel with an unusual heptad register shift between adjacent staggered helices. The overall geometry comprises two interleaved hydrophobic helical screws of interacting cross-sectional a and d layers that have not been seen before. Moreover, asparagines at the a positions play an essential role in heptamer formation by participating in a set of buried interhelix hydrogen bonds. These results demonstrate that heptad repeats containing four hydrophobic positions can direct assembly of complex, higher-order coiled-coil structures with rich diversity for close packing of alpha-helices.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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