A model for the coupling of α-helix and tertiary contact formation

Andrew C. Hausrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Peptides corresponding to excised α-helical segments of natural proteins can spontaneously form helices in solution. However, peptide helices are usually substantially less stable in solution than in the structural context of a folded protein, because of the additional interactions possible between helices in a protein. Such interactions can be thought of as coupling helix formation and tertiary contact formation. The relative energetic contributions of the two processes to the total energy of the folded state of a protein is a matter of current debate. To investigate this balance, an extended helix-coil model (XHC) that incorporates both effects has been constructed. The model treats helix formation with the Lifson-Roig formalism, which describes helix initiation and propagation through cooperative local interactions. The model postulates an additional parameter representing participation of a site in a tertiary contact. In the model, greater helix stability can be achieved through combinations of these short-range and long-range interactions. For instance, stronger tertiary contacts can compensate for helices with little intrinsic stability. By varying the strength of the nonlocal interactions, the model can exhibit behavior consistent with a variety of qualitative models describing the relative importance of secondary and tertiary structure. Moreover, the model is explicit in that it can be used to fit experimental data to individual peptide sequences, providing a means to quantify the two contributions on a common energetic basis. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2051-2061
Number of pages11
JournalProtein Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2006


  • Binary pattern
  • Helix-coil transition
  • Hydrophobic effect
  • Secondary structure
  • Tertiary interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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