Computational design of water-soluble α-helical barrels

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Science  24 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6208, pp. 485-488
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257452

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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


The design of protein sequences that fold into prescribed de novo structures is challenging. General solutions to this problem require geometric descriptions of protein folds and methods to fit sequences to these. The α-helical coiled coils present a promising class of protein for this and offer considerable scope for exploring hitherto unseen structures. For α-helical barrels, which have more than four helices and accessible central channels, many of the possible structures remain unobserved. Here, we combine geometrical considerations, knowledge-based scoring, and atomistic modeling to facilitate the design of new channel-containing α-helical barrels. X-ray crystal structures of the resulting designs match predicted in silico models. Furthermore, the observed channels are chemically defined and have diameters related to oligomer state, which present routes to design protein function.

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