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J Am Chem Soc. 2002 Aug 21;124(33):9751-5.

Contribution of aromatic interactions to alpha-helix stability.

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Department of Chemistry, UNC Chapel Hill, Venable and Kenan Laboratories, CB 3290, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


The influence of natural and unnatural i, i + 4 aromatic side chain-side chain interactions on alpha-helix stability was determined in Ala-Lys host peptides by circular dichroism (CD). All interactions investigated provided some stability to the helix; however, phenylalanine-phenylalanine (F-F) and phenylalanine-pentafluorophenylalanine (F-f5F) interactions resulted in the greatest enhancement in helicity, doubling the helical content over i, i + 5 control peptides at internal positions. Quantification of these interactions using AGADIR multistate helix-coil algorithm revealed that the F-F and F-f5F interaction energies are equivalent at internal positions in the sequence (deltaGF-F = deltaGF-f5F = -0.27 kcal/mol), despite the differences in their expected geometries. As the strength of a face-to-face stacked phenyl-pentafluorophenyl interaction should surpass an edge-to-face or offset-stacked phenyl-phenyl interaction, we believe this result reflects the inability of the side chains in F-f5F to attain a fully stacked geometry within the context of an alpha-helix. Positioning the interactions at the C-terminus led to much stronger interactions (deltaGF-F = -0.8 kcal/mol; deltaGF-f5F = -0.55 kcal/mol) likely because of favorable chi(1) rotameric preferences for aromatic residues at C-capping regions of alpha-helices, suggesting that aromatic side chain-side chain interactions are an effective alpha-helix C-capping method.

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