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J Am Chem Soc. 2002 Apr 3;124(13):3284-91.

Cation-pi interaction in model alpha-helical peptides.

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Department of Chemistry, New York University, New York 10003, USA.


Cation-pi interactions are increasingly recognized as important in chemistry and biology. Here we investigate the cation-pi interaction by determining its effect on the helicity of model peptides using a combination of CD and NMR spectroscopy. The data show that a single Trp/Arg interaction on the surface of a peptide can make a significant net favorable free energy contribution to helix stability if the two residues are positioned with appropriate spacing and orientation. The solvent-exposed Trp-->Arg (i, i + 4) interaction in helices can contribute -0.4 kcal/mol to the helix stability, while no free energy gain is detected if the two residues have the reversed orientation, Arg-->Trp (i, i + 4). The derived free energy is consistent with other experimental results studied in proteins or model peptides on cation-pi interactions. However in the same system the postulated Phe/Arg (i, i + 4) cation-pi interaction provides no net free energy to helix stability. Thus the Trp-->Arg interaction is stronger than Phe-->Arg. The cation-pi interactions are not sensitive to the screening effect by adding neutral salt as indicated by salt titration. Our results are in qualitative agreement with theoretical calculations emphasizing that cation-pi interactions can contribute significantly to protein stability with the order Trp > Phe. However, our and other experimental values are significantly smaller than estimates from theoretical calculations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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