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Folding and Assembly of Short α, β, γ‑Hybrid Peptides: Minor Variations in Sequence and Drastic Differences in Higher-Level Structures

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journal contribution
posted on 26.08.2019, 17:44 by Yukun Zhang, Yulong Zhong, Alan L. Connor, Daniel P. Miller, Ruikai Cao, Jie Shen, Bo Song, Erin S. Baker, Quan Tang, Surya V. S. R. K. Pulavarti, Rui Liu, Qiwei Wang, Zhong-lin Lu, Thomas Szyperski, Huaqiang Zeng, Xiaopeng Li, Richard D. Smith, Eva Zurek, Jin Zhu, Bing Gong
Multilevel protein structures typically involve polypeptides of sufficient lengths. Here we report the folding and assembly of seven short tetrapeptides sharing the same types of α-, β-, and aromatic γ-amino acid residues. These are two sets of hybrid peptides, with three members in one set and four in the other, having complementary hydrogen-bonding sequences that were hypothesized to pair into linear H-bonded duplexes. However, instead of undergoing the anticipated pairing, the initially examined three oligomers, 1 and 2a or 2b, differing only in their central αβ hybrid dipeptide sequence, do not associate with each other and exhibit distinctly different folding behavior. Experiments based on NMR and mass spectrometry, along with computational studies and systematic inference, reveal that oligomer 1 folds into an expanded β-turn containing an unusual hybrid α/β-amino acid sequence composed of glycine and β-alanine, two α- and β-amino acid residues that are conformationally most flexible, and peptides 2a and 2b adopt a noncanonical, extended helical conformation and dimerize into double helices undergoing rapid conformational exchange or helix inversion. The different central dipeptide sequences, αβ vs βα, result in drastically different intramolecular H-bonding patterns that are responsible for the observed folding behavior of 1 and 2. The revealed turn and double helix have few natural or synthetic counterparts, and provide novel and unique folding prototypes based on which chiral α- and β-amino acids are incorporated. The resultant derivatives 1a, 1b, 2c, and 2d follow the same folding and assembling behavior and demonstrate the generality of this system with the formation of expanded β-turns and double helices with enhanced folding stabilities, hampered helix inversion, as well as defined and dominant helical sense. This work has demonstrated the unique capability of synthetic foldamers in generating structures with fascinating folding and assembling behavior. The revealed systems offer ample opportunity for further structural optimization and applications.