Hiding in plain sight: three chemically distinct α-helix types

June 20, 2022

Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics 55, e7, 1–10.


 Linus Pauling in 1950 published a three-dimensional model for a universal protein secondary structure motif which he initially called the alpha-spiral. Jack Dunitz, then a postdoc in Pauling's lab suggested to Pauling that the term helix is more accurate than spiral when describing the right-handed peptide and protein coiled structures. Pauling agreed, hence the rise of the alpha-helix, and, by extension, the ‘double helix’ structure of DNA. Although structural biologists and protein chemists are familiar with varying polar and apolar characters of amino acids in alpha-helices, to non-experts the three chemically distinct alpha-helix types classified here may hide in plain sight.

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