• π-turn;
  • water/side-chain embedded turn;
  • Schellman motif;
  • hydrogen bonding;
  • turn conformation


Elucidating protein function from its structure is central to the understanding of cellular mechanisms. This involves deciphering the dependence of local structural motifs on sequence. These structural motifs may be stabilized by direct or water-mediated hydrogen bonding among the constituent residues. π-Turns, defined by interactions between (i) and (i + 5) positions, are large enough to contain a central space that can embed a water molecule (or a protein moiety) to form a stable structure. This work is an analysis of such embedded π-turns using a nonredundant dataset of protein structures. A total of 2965 embedded π-turns have been identified, as also 281 embedded Schellman motif, a type of π-turn which occurs at the C-termini of α-helices. Embedded π-turns and Schellman motifs have been classified on the basis of the protein atoms of the terminal turn residues that are linked by the embedded moiety, conformation, residue composition, and compared with the turns that have terminal residues connected by direct hydrogen bonds. Geometrically, the turns have been fitted to a circle and the position of the linker relative to its center analyzed. The hydroxyl group of Ser and Thr, located at (i + 3) position, is the most prominent linker for the side-chain mediated π-turns. Consideration of residue conservation among homologous sequences indicates the terminal and the linker positions to be the most conserved. The embedded π-turn as a binding site (for the linker) is discussed in the context of “nest,” a concave depression that is formed in protein structures with adjacent residues having enantiomeric main-chain conformations. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 101: 441–453, 2014.