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Properties of polyproline II, a secondary structure element implicated in protein–protein interactions



The polyproline II (PPII) conformation of protein backbone is an important secondary structure type. It is unusual in that, due to steric constraints, its main-chain hydrogen-bond donors and acceptors cannot easily be satisfied. It is unable to make local hydrogen bonds, in a manner similar to that of α-helices, and it cannot easily satisfy the hydrogen-bonding potential of neighboring residues in polyproline conformation in a manner analogous to β-strands. Here we describe an analysis of polyproline conformations using the HOMSTRAD database of structurally aligned proteins. This allows us not only to determine amino acid propensities from a much larger database than previously but also to investigate conservation of amino acids in polyproline conformations, and the conservation of the conformation itself. Although proline is common in polyproline helices, helices without proline represent 46% of the total. No other amino acid appears to be greatly preferred; glycine and aromatic amino acids have low propensities for PPII. Accordingly, the hydrogen-bonding potential of PPII main-chain is mainly satisfied by water molecules and by other parts of the main-chain. Side-chain to main-chain interactions are mostly nonlocal. Interestingly, the increased number of nonsatisfied H-bond donors and acceptors (as compared with α-helices and β-strands) makes PPII conformers well suited to take part in protein–protein interactions. Proteins 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.