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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2008 Nov 14;10(42):6350-9. doi: 10.1039/b805087b. Epub 2008 Sep 11.

Another role of proline: stabilization interactions in proteins and protein complexes concerning proline and tryptophane.

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Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and Center for Biomolecules and Complex Molecular Systems, Flemingovo nam. 2, 166 10, Prague 6, Czech Republic.


Proline-tryptophan complexes derived from experimental structures are investigated by quantum chemical procedures known to properly describe the London dispersion energy. We study two geometrical arrangements: the "L-shaped", stabilized by an H-bond, and the "stacked-like", where the two residues are in parallel orientation without any H-bond. Interestingly, the interaction energies in both cases are comparable and very large ( approximately 7 kcal mol(-1)). The strength of stabilization in the stacked arrangement is rather surprising considering the fact that only one partner has an aromatic character. The interaction energy decomposition using the SAPT method further demonstrates the very important role of dispersion energy in such arrangement. To elucidate the structural features responsible for this unexpectedly large stabilization we examined the role of the nitrogen heteroatom and the importance of the cyclicity of the proline residue. We show that the electrostatic interaction due to the presence of the dipole, caused by the nitrogen heteroatom, contributes largely to the strength of the interaction. Nevertheless, the cyclic arrangement of proline, which allows for the largest amount of dispersive contact with the aromatic partner, also has a notable-effect. Geometry optimizations carried out for the "stacked-like" complexes show that the arrangements derived from protein structure are close to their gas phase optimum geometry, suggesting that the environment has only a minor effect on the geometry of the interaction. We conclude that the strength of proline non-covalent interactions, combined with this residue's rigidity, might be the explanation for its prominent role in protein stabilization and recognition processes.

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