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Biophys J. 2013 Nov 19;105(10):2403-11. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.09.018.

New insights into the interdependence between amino acid stereochemistry and protein structure.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; Integrated Graduate Program in Physical and Engineering Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.


To successfully design new proteins and understand the effects of mutations in natural proteins, we must understand the geometric and physicochemical principles underlying protein structure. The side chains of amino acids in peptides and proteins adopt specific dihedral angle combinations; however, we still do not have a fundamental quantitative understanding of why some side-chain dihedral angle combinations are highly populated and others are not. Here we employ a hard-sphere plus stereochemical constraint model of dipeptide mimetics to enumerate the side-chain dihedral angles of leucine (Leu) and isoleucine (Ile), and identify those conformations that are sterically allowed versus those that are not as a function of the backbone dihedral angles ϕ and ψ. We compare our results with the observed distributions of side-chain dihedral angles in proteins of known structure. With the hard-sphere plus stereochemical constraint model, we obtain agreement between the model predictions and the observed side-chain dihedral angle distributions for Leu and Ile. These results quantify the extent to which local, geometrical constraints determine protein side-chain conformations.

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