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Very short peptides with stable folds: Building on the interrelationship of Trp/Trp, Trp/cation, and Trp/backbone–amide interaction geometries



By combining a favorable turn sequence with a turn flanking Trp/Trp interaction and a C-terminal H-bonding interaction between a backbone amide and an i-2 Trp ring, a particularly stable (ΔGU > 7 kJ/mol) truncated hairpin, Ac-WI-(D-Pro-D-Asn)-KWTG-NH2, results. In this construct and others with a W-(4-residue turn)-W motif in severely truncated hairpins, the C-terminal Trp is the edge residue in a well-defined face-to-edge (FtE) aryl/aryl interaction. Longer hairpins and those with six-residue turns retain the reversed “edge-to-face” (EtF) Trp/Trp geometry first observed for the trpzip peptides. Mutational studies suggest that the W-(4-residue turn)-W interaction provides at least 3 kJ/mol of stabilization in excess of that due to the greater β-propensity of Trp. The π–cation, and Trp/Gly-HN interactions have been defined. The latter can give rise to >3 ppm upfield shifts for the Gly-HN in -WXnG- units both in turns (n = 2) and at the C-termini (n = 1) of hairpins. Terminal YTG units result in somewhat smaller shifts (extrapolated to 2 ppm for 100% folding). In peptides with both the EtF and FtE W/W interaction geometries, Trp to Tyr mutations indicate that Trp is the preferred “face” residue in aryl/aryl pairings, presumably because of its greater π basicity. Proteins 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.