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Protein Sci. 2015 Apr;24(4):434-45. doi: 10.1002/pro.2577. Epub 2014 Nov 6.

Computational de novo design of a four-helix bundle protein--DND_4HB.

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Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 27599-3290.


The de novo design of proteins is a rigorous test of our understanding of the key determinants of protein structure. The helix bundle is an interesting de novo design model system due to the diverse topologies that can be generated from a few simple α-helices. Previously, noncomputational studies demonstrated that connecting amphipathic helices together with short loops can sometimes generate helix bundle proteins, regardless of the bundle's exact sequence. However, using such methods, the precise positions of helices and side chains cannot be predetermined. Since protein function depends on exact positioning of residues, we examined if sequence design tools in the program Rosetta could be used to design a four-helix bundle with a predetermined structure. Helix position was specified using a folding procedure that constrained the design model to a defined topology, and iterative rounds of rotamer-based sequence design and backbone refinement were used to identify a low energy sequence for characterization. The designed protein, DND_4HB, unfolds cooperatively (Tm >90°C) and a NMR solution structure shows that it adopts the target helical bundle topology. Helices 2, 3, and 4 agree very closely with the design model (backbone RMSD = 1.11 Å) and >90% of the core side chain χ1 and χ2 angles are correctly predicted. Helix 1 lies in the target groove against the other helices, but is displaced 3 Å along the bundle axis. This result highlights the potential of computational design to create bundles with atomic-level precision, but also points at remaining challenges for achieving specific positioning between amphipathic helices.


NMR structure; computational protein design; de novo protein design; four-helix bundle; rosetta

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