Coiled coils as possible models of protein structure evolution


Coiled coils are formed by two or more α-helices wrapped around one another. This structural motif often guides di-, tri- or multimerization of proteins involved in diverse biological processes such as membrane fusion, signal transduction and the organization of the cytoskeleton. Although coiled coil motifs seem conceptually simple and their existence was proposed in the early 1950s, the high variability of the motif makes coiled coil prediction from sequence a difficult task. They might be confused with intrinsically disordered sequences and even more with a recently described structural motif, the charged single α-helix. By contrast, the versatility of coiled coil structures renders them an ideal candidate for protein (re)design and many novel variants have been successfully created to date. In this paper, we review coiled coils in the light of protein evolution by putting our present understanding of the motif and its variants in the context of structural interconversions. We argue that coiled coils are ideal subjects for studies of subtle and large-scale structural changes because of their well-characterized and versatile nature.

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BioMolecular Concepts is a peer-reviewed journal fostering the integration of different fields of biomolecular research. The journal provides expert summaries and conclusive extensions of research data leading to new and original, testable hypotheses. Aspects of research that can promote related fields and lead to novel insight into biological mechanisms are of special interest.