High thermodynamic stability of parametrically designed helical bundles

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Science  24 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6208, pp. 481-485
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257481

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Building with alphahelical coiled coils

Understanding how proteins fold into well-defined three-dimensional structures has been a longstanding challenge. Increased understanding has led to increased success at designing proteins that mimic existing protein folds. This raises the possibility of custom design of proteins with structures not seen in nature. Thomson et al. describe the design of channelcontaining α-helical barrels, and Huang et al. designed hyperstable helical bundles. Both groups used rational and computational design to make new protein structures based on α-helical coiled coils but took different routes to reach different target structures.

Science, this issue p. 485, p. 481


We describe a procedure for designing proteins with backbones produced by varying the parameters in the Crick coiled coil–generating equations. Combinatorial design calculations identify low-energy sequences for alternative helix supercoil arrangements, and the helices in the lowest-energy arrangements are connected by loop building. We design an antiparallel monomeric untwisted three-helix bundle with 80-residue helices, an antiparallel monomeric right-handed four-helix bundle, and a pentameric parallel left-handed five-helix bundle. The designed proteins are extremely stable (extrapolated ΔGfold > 60 kilocalories per mole), and their crystal structures are close to those of the design models with nearly identical core packing between the helices. The approach enables the custom design of hyperstable proteins with fine-tuned geometries for a wide range of applications.

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