Tertiary structure is a principal determinant to protein deamidation

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Science  08 Apr 1988:
Vol. 240, Issue 4849, pp. 191-194
DOI: 10.1126/science.3353715


The protein deamidation process involves the conversion of the amide side-chain moieties of asparagine and glutamine residues to carboxyl groups. This conversion is an unusual form of protein modification in that it requires catalysis by an intramolecular reaction where both the substrate (asparagine and glutamine side chains) and "catalytic site" (the peptide nitrogen of the succeeding residue) are constituents of several consecutive residues along the polypeptide chain. The stereochemical factors governing this process were studied with a data base derived from the neutron crystallographic structure of trypsin from which amide groups and oxygen can be unambiguously differentiated because of their different neutron scattering properties. The neutron structure allowed for the direct determination of those residues that were deamidated; 3 of 13 asparagine residues were found to be modified. These modified residues were clearly distinguished by a distinct local conformation and hydrogen-bonding structure in contrast to those observed for the other asparagine residues. No correlation was found between preference to deamidate and the chemical character of residues flanking the site, as had been proposed from previous peptide studies.