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Cell. 1999 Aug 20;98(4):523-35.

Structures of two repeats of spectrin suggest models of flexibility.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


Spectrin is a vital component of the cytoskeleton, conferring flexibility on cells and providing a scaffold for a variety of proteins. It is composed of tandem, antiparallel coiled-coil repeats. We report four related crystal structures at 1.45 A, 2.0 A, 3.1 A, and 4.0 A resolution of two connected repeats of chicken brain alpha-spectrin. In all of the structures, the linker region between adjacent units is alpha-helical without breaks, kinks, or obvious boundaries. Two features observed in the structures are (1) conformational rearrangement in one repeat, resulting in movement of the position of a loop, and (2) varying degrees of bending at the linker region. These features form the basis of two different models of flexibility: a conformational rearrangement and a bending model. These models provide novel atomic details of spectrin flexibility.

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