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Biopolymers. 2000 Mar;53(3):233-48.

Evidence for a strong sulfur-aromatic interaction derived from crystallographic data.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, 600 S. 43rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495, USA.


We have uncovered new evidence for a significant interaction between divalent sulfur atoms and aromatic rings. Our study involves a statistical analysis of interatomic distances and other geometric descriptors derived from entries in the Cambridge Crystallographic Database (F. H. Allen and O. Kennard, Chem. Design Auto. News, 1993, Vol. 8, pp. 1 and 31-37). A set of descriptors was defined sufficient in number and type so as to elucidate completely the preferred geometry of interaction between six-membered aromatic carbon rings and divalent sulfurs for all crystal structures of nonmetal-bearing organic compounds present in the database. In order to test statistical significance, analogous probability distributions for the interaction of the moiety X-CH(2)-X with aromatic rings were computed, and taken a priori to correspond to the null hypothesis of no significant interaction. Tests of significance were carried our pairwise between probability distributions of sulfur-aromatic interaction descriptors and their CH(2)-aromatic analogues using the Smirnov-Kolmogorov nonparametric test (W. W. Daniel, Applied Nonparametric Statistics, Houghton-Mifflin: Boston, New York, 1978, pp. 276-286), and in all cases significance at the 99% confidence level or better was observed. Local maxima of the probability distributions were used to define a preferred geometry of interaction between the divalent sulfur moiety and the aromatic ring. Molecular mechanics studies were performed in an effort to better understand the physical basis of the interaction. This study confirms observations based on statistics of interaction of amino acids in protein crystal structures (R. S. Morgan, C. E. Tatsch, R. H. Gushard, J. M. McAdon, and P. K. Warme, International Journal of Peptide Protein Research, 1978, Vol. 11, pp. 209-217; R. S. Morgan and J. M. McAdon, International Journal of Peptide Protein Research, 1980, Vol. 15, pp. 177-180; K. S. C. Reid, P. F. Lindley, and J. M. Thornton, FEBS Letters, 1985, Vol. 190, pp. 209-213), as well as studies involving molecular mechanics (G. Nemethy and H. A. Scheraga, Biochemistry and Biophysics Research Communications, 1981, Vol. 98, pp. 482-487) and quantum chemical calculations (B. V. Cheney, M. W. Schulz, and J. Cheney, Biochimica Biophysica Acta, 1989, Vol. 996, pp.116-124; J. Pranata, Bioorganic Chemistry, 1997, Vol. 25, pp. 213-219)-all of which point to the possible importance of the sulfur-aromatic interaction. However, the preferred geometry of the interaction, as determined from our analysis of the small-molecule crystal data, differs significantly from that found by other approaches.

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