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J Am Chem Soc. 2017 Jan 11;139(1):492-516. doi: 10.1021/jacs.6b11348. Epub 2016 Dec 28.

Diversity of Secondary Structure in Catalytic Peptides with β-Turn-Biased Sequences.

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Department of Chemistry, Yale University , P.O. Box 208107, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8107, United States.


X-ray crystallography has been applied to the structural analysis of a series of tetrapeptides that were previously assessed for catalytic activity in an atroposelective bromination reaction. Common to the series is a central Pro-Xaa sequence, where Pro is either l- or d-proline, which was chosen to favor nucleation of canonical β-turn secondary structures. Crystallographic analysis of 35 different peptide sequences revealed a range of conformational states. The observed differences appear not only in cases where the Pro-Xaa loop-region is altered, but also when seemingly subtle alterations to the flanking residues are introduced. In many instances, distinct conformers of the same sequence were observed, either as symmetry-independent molecules within the same unit cell or as polymorphs. Computational studies using DFT provided additional insight into the analysis of solid-state structural features. Select X-ray crystal structures were compared to the corresponding solution structures derived from measured proton chemical shifts, 3J-values, and 1H-1H-NOESY contacts. These findings imply that the conformational space available to simple peptide-based catalysts is more diverse than precedent might suggest. The direct observation of multiple ground state conformations for peptides of this family, as well as the dynamic processes associated with conformational equilibria, underscore not only the challenge of designing peptide-based catalysts, but also the difficulty in predicting their accessible transition states. These findings implicate the advantages of low-barrier interconversions between conformations of peptide-based catalysts for multistep, enantioselective reactions.

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