Amino acid preferences for specific locations at the ends of alpha helices

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Science  17 Jun 1988:
Vol. 240, Issue 4859, pp. 1648-1652
DOI: 10.1126/science.3381086


A definition based on alpha-carbon positions and a sample of 215 alpha helices from 45 different globular protein structures were used to tabulate amino acid preferences for 16 individual positions relative to the helix ends. The interface residue, which is half in and half out of the helix, is called the N-cap or C-cap, whichever is appropriate. The results confirm earlier observations, such as asymmetrical charge distributions in the first and last helical turn, but several new, sharp preferences are found as well. The most striking of these are a 3.5:1 preference for Asn at the N-cap position, and a preference of 2.6:1 for Pro at N-cap + 1. The C-cap position is overwhelmingly dominated by Gly, which ends 34 percent of the helices. Hydrophobic residues peak at positions N-cap + 4 and C-cap - 4.