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J Mol Biol. 1997 Apr 11;267(4):963-74.

Estimating the relative populations of 3(10)-helix and alpha-helix in Ala-rich peptides: a hydrogen exchange and high field NMR study.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Cruz 95064, USA.


Recent experimental and theoretical work suggests that alanine-rich peptides fold as a mixture of 3(10)-helix (i --> i + 3 hydrogen bonding) and alpha-helix (i --> i + 4 hydrogen bonding). In order to assess the relative proportions of the two conformers, NMR studies were performed on the 16 residue sequences: Ac-AAAAKAAAAKAAAAKA-NH2 (3K) and Ac-AMAAKAWAAKAAAARA-NH2 (MW). Hydrogen/deuterium-exchange kinetics measured for the first three amide protons of the 3K peptide indicate that the NH of Ala3 is partially protected from exchange. This result is consistent with the presence of an i --> i + 3 hydrogen bond between the carbonyl group of the acetyl blocking group and the NH group of Ala3. The MW peptide is a modified version of the 3K peptide, designed to increase alphaH signal dispersion. 1H NMR spectra of the MW peptide at 750 MHz reveal a series of intermediate range (NOEs) consistent with a mixture of 3(10)-helix and alpha-helix. The relative intensities of the alphaN(i,i + 3) and alphabeta(i,i + 3) (nuclear Overhauser enhancements) NOEs suggest that 3(10)-helix is present throughout the peptide, but with the greatest contribution at the termini. A model was developed to determine the relative contributions of 3(10)-helix and alpha-helix. Lower bounds for the population of 3(10)-helix are approximately 50% at the termini and 25% in the middle of the peptide. The greatest alpha-helical content is between the middle of the peptide and the N terminus.

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