• steric effects;
  • electronic effects;
  • cis/trans isomerism;
  • X-Pro motif;
  • hydrogen bond;
  • n[RIGHTWARDS ARROW]π* interactions;
  • conformational equilibrium;
  • cis Piv-Pro rotamer;
  • solution structure


A systematic understanding of the noncovalent interactions that influence the structures of the cis conformers and the equilibrium between the cis and the trans conformers, of the X-Pro tertiary amide motifs, is presented based on analyses of 1H-, 13C-NMR and FTIR absorption spectra of two sets of homologous peptides, X-Pro-Aib-OMe and X-Pro-NH-Me (where X is acetyl, propionyl, isobutyryl and pivaloyl), in solvents of varying polarities. First, this work shows that the cis conformers of any X-Pro tertiary amide motif, including Piv-Pro, are accessible in the new motifs X-Pro-Aib-OMe, in solution. These conformers are uniquely observable by FTIR spectroscopy at ambient temperatures and by NMR spectroscopy from temperatures as high as 273 K. This is made possible by the persistent presence of ni-1[RIGHTWARDS ARROW]πi* interactions at Aib, which also influence the disappearance of steric effects at these cis X-Pro rotamers. Second, contrary to conventional understanding, the energy contribution of steric effects to the cis/trans equilibrium at the X-Pro motifs is found to be nonvariant (0.54 ± 0.02 kcal/mol) with increase in steric bulk on the X group. Third, the current studies provide direct evidence for the weak intramolecular interactions namely the ni-1[RIGHTWARDS ARROW]πi*, the NPro•••Hi+1 (C5a), and the C7 hydrogen bond that operate and influence the structures, stabilities, and dynamics between different conformational states of X-Pro tertiary amide motifs. NMR and IR spectral data suggest that the cis conformers of X-Pro motifs are ensembles of short-lived rotamers about the C′X–NPro bond. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 101: 66–77, 2014.