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REVIEW: Chirality and Handedness of Protein Structures

A. V. Efimov

Institute of Protein Research, Russian Academy of Sciences, 142290 Pushchino, Moscow Region, Russia; E-mail: efimov@protres.ru

Received May 25, 2017; Revision received June 19, 2017
In proteins, the polypeptide chain forms a number of right- and left-handed helices and superhelices, right- and left-turned hairpins, and some other structures that are nonsuperimposable, although they are not mirror images of each other as the L-amino acids are not converted to the D-amino acids. This property of protein structures will be referred to here as pseudo-chirality – or handedness. It has been shown that there are two kinds of handedness in proteins – helical handedness and handedness of arrangement. Some protein structures exhibit both the kinds of handedness. Handedness is observed at all levels of protein structural organization – from α-helices, β-strands, hairpins, βαβ-units up to complex structural motifs, superhelices, and supramolecular structures in fibrous and polymer proteins. There are several structures that have unique handedness in proteins, for example, α-helices, αα-corners, βαβ-units, abcd-units, and so on. This property of the polypeptide chain is of particular value in protein folding and protein modeling, because it drastically reduces the number of possible folds.
KEY WORDS: α-helix, β-hairpin, superhelix, structural motif, protein folding

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297918140092