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J Mol Biol. 1994 Mar 11;236(5):1356-68.

Four helix bundle diversity in globular proteins.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0446.


Four helix bundles are a common structural motif that can be observed both independently and as components of larger folding units. We examined 221 globular proteins of known structure for possible four helix bundles. Previous computational studies of four helix bundles have placed arbitrary restrictions on interhelical packing angles. In this study we develop a geometric definition of four helix bundles based in part on solvent accessibility criteria that permits the removal of constraints on interhelical packing. Based on the observed pattern of interhelical angles, a bundle taxonomy is presented. This formalism should provide a useful categorization method for future structural studies of proteins rich in alpha-helices. The helix-helix interactions within bundles were studied in detail. Central residues, contact normals, and skew angles all were observed to have non-random distributions. A simple geometric model was developed for the helix-helix interface to explain these findings. Analysis of the helix-helix interaction data collected in this work confirms the importance of including skew angles in models of helix packing, and should improve the accuracy of combinatorial strategies for the prediction of the tertiary structure of all-helical proteins. Additionally, the geometric properties observed in globular proteins provide insight into the structural organization of membrane spanning proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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