Examining α-Helical Proteins

  • Tim Skern
Part of the Learning Materials in Biosciences book series (LMB)


The possibilities of packing α-helices are limited. The α-helices of a protein must be arranged so that the closely packed side-chains do not clash sterically and that their chemical properties are compatible. The packing of α-helices of closely related proteins can be very similar; however, slight variations and the presence of different amino acids can lead to different properties and functions. First, we will investigate the structure of three DNA-binding proteins that have α-helices in an arrangement known as a coiled coil. Variation in the amino acid sequence in the regions forming the coiled coils determines whether the proteins can form homodimers or heterodimers. Then, we will examine the arrangement of the α-helices in the globular protein myoglobin. In the final part of the chapter, we move on to investigate the variations in the structure and functions of three proteins. All three proteins have similar α-helical Bcl-2-like folds but perform different functions. One protein acts to prevent the onset of apoptosis (i.e., it is a pro-survival factor for a cell), whereas the second acts to induce the onset of apoptosis (i.e., it is a pro-apoptotic factor). The third, from vaccinia virus, does not show any apoptotic properties but can instead inhibit cellular signaling pathways to prevent inflammation in the infected host (◘ Table 7.1).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tim Skern
    • 1
  1. 1.Max F. Perutz LaboratoriesMedical University of ViennaViennaAustria

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