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J Struct Biol. 1998;122(1-2):3-16.

Why fibrous proteins are romantic.

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Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, 02254-9110, USA.


Here I give a personal account of the great history of fibrous protein structure. I describe how Astbury first recognized the essential simplicity of fibrous proteins and their paradigmatic role in protein structure. The poor diffraction patterns yielded by these proteins were then deciphered by Pauling, Crick, Ramachandran and others (in part by model building) to reveal alpha-helical coiled coils, beta-sheets, and the collagen triple helical coiled coil-all characterized by different local sequence periodicities. Longer-range sequence periodicities (or "magic numbers") present in diverse fibrous proteins, such as collagen, tropomyosin, paramyosin, myosin, and were then shown to account for the characteristic axial repeats observed in filaments of these proteins. More recently, analysis of fibrous protein structure has been extended in many cases to atomic resolution, and some systems, such as "leucine zippers," are providing a deeper understanding of protein design than similar studies of globular proteins. In the last sections, I provide some dramatic examples of fibrous protein dynamics. One example is the so-called "spring-loaded" mechanism for viral fusion by the hemagglutinin protein of influenza. Another is the possible conformational changes in prion proteins, implicated in "mad cow disease," which may be related to similar transitions in a variety of globular and fibrous proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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