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Nature. 1997 May 22;387(6631):381-4.

Residue-based control of helix shape in beta-peptide oligomers.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706, USA.


Proteins and RNA are unique among known polymers in their ability to adopt compact and well-defined folding patterns. These two biopolymers can perform complex chemical operations such as catalysis and highly selective recognition, and these functions are linked to folding in that the creation of an active site requires proper juxtaposition of reactive groups. So the development of new types of polymeric backbones with well-defined and predictable folding propensities ('foldamers') might lead to molecules with useful functions. The first step in foldamer development is to identify synthetic oligomers with specific secondary structural preferences. Whereas alpha-amino acids can adopt the well-known alpha-helical motif of proteins, it was shown recently that beta-peptides constructed from carefully chosen beta-amino acids can adopt a different, stable helical conformation defined by interwoven 14-membered-ring hydrogen bonds (a 14-helix; Fig. 1a). Here we report that beta-amino acids can also be used to design beta-peptides with a very different secondary structure, a 12-helix (Fig. 1a). This demonstrates that by altering the nature of beta-peptide residues, one can exert rational control over the secondary structure.

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