Protein Domains - Domains Are Units of Protein Structure

Domains Are Units of Protein Structure

The primary structure (string of amino acids) of a protein ultimately encodes its uniquely folded 3D conformation. The most important factor governing the folding of a protein into 3D structure is the distribution of polar and non-polar side chains. Folding is driven by the burial of hydrophobic side chains into the interior of the molecule so to avoid contact with the aqueous environment. Generally proteins have a core of hydrophobic residues surrounded by a shell of hydrophilic residues. Since the peptide bonds themselves are polar they are neutralised by hydrogen bonding with each other when in the hydrophobic environment. This gives rise to regions of the polypeptide that form regular 3D structural patterns called secondary structure. There are two main types of secondary structure: α-helices and β-sheets.

Some simple combinations of secondary structure elements have been found to frequently occur in protein structure and are referred to as supersecondary structure or motifs. For example, the β-hairpin motif consists of two adjacent antiparallel β-strands joined by a small loop. It is present in most antiparallel β structures both as an isolated ribbon and as part of more complex β-sheets. Another common super-secondary structure is the β-α-β motif, which is frequently used to connect two parallel β-strands. The central α-helix connects the C-termini of the first strand to the N-termini of the second strand, packing its side chains against the β-sheet and therefore shielding the hydrophobic residues of the β-strands from the surface.

Structural alignment is an important tool for determining domains.

Read more about this topic:  Protein Domains

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... Many proteins have a quaternary structure, which consists of several polypeptide chains that associate into an oligomeric molecule ... Each polypeptide chain in such a protein is called a subunit ... Domain swapping is a mechanism for forming oligomeric assemblies ...

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