Geometry motivated alternative view on local protein backbone structures



We present an alternative to the classical Ramachandran plot (R-plot) to display local protein backbone structure. Instead of the (φ, ψ)-backbone angles relating to the chemical architecture of polypeptides generic helical parameters are used. These are the rotation or twist angle ϑ and the helical rise parameter d. Plots with these parameters provide a different view on the nature of local protein backbone structures. It allows to display the local structures in polar (d, ϑ)-coordinates, which is not possible for an R-plot, where structural regimes connected by periodicity appear disconnected. But there are other advantages, like a clear discrimination of the handedness of a local structure, a larger spread of the different local structure domains—the latter can yield a better separation of different local secondary structure motives—and many more. Compared to the R-plot we are not aware of any major disadvantage to classify local polypeptide structures with the (d, ϑ)-plot, except that it requires some elementary computations. To facilitate usage of the new (d, ϑ)-plot for protein structures we provide a web application (, which shows the (d, ϑ)-plot side-by-side with the R-plot.