Chemical sequence control of beta-sheet assembly in macromolecular crystals of periodic polypeptides

Science  02 Sep 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5177, pp. 1427-1432
DOI: 10.1126/science.8073284


A family of uniform periodic polypeptides has been prepared by bacterial expression of the corresponding artificial genes, with the objective of exploring the potential for control of supramolecular organization in genetically engineered protein-based polymeric materials. The repeating units of the polypeptides consist of oligomeric alanyl-glycine sequences interspersed with glutamic acid residues inserted at intervals of 8 to 14 amino acids. Crystallization of such materials from formic acid produces beta-sheet structures in the solid state, as shown by vibrational spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and wide-angle x-ray diffraction. The diffraction results, together with observations from electron microscopy, are consistent with the formation of needle-shaped lamellar crystals whose thickness is controlled by the periodicity of the primary sequence. These results can be used to control solid-state structure in macromolecular materials.