Designed high affinity Cu2+-binding alpha-helical foldamer

AJ Nicoll, David Miller, Klaus Futterer, R Ravelli, Rudolf Allemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)


The design, synthesis, and characterization of a folded high-affinity metal-binding peptide is described. Based on the previously described folded peptide NTH-18, in which an alpha-helix was constrained through two disulfide bonds to a C-terminal extension of noncanonical secondary structure, a peptide (1) was designed to contain two histidine residues in positions 3 and 7. Air oxidation of 1 led to the formation of peptide 2, which contained two intramolecular disulfide bonds. The presence of the two histidines significantly destabilized the alpha-helical structure of 2 when compared to NTH-18. However, CD spectroscopy revealed that the addition of certain transition metal ions allowed the reformation of a stable alpha-helix. CD, NMR, and EPR spectroscopy as well as MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry indicated that 2 bound to Cu2+ to form a 1:1 complex via the imidazoles of the two histidine side chains. A glycine displacement assay revealed a dissociation constant for this complex of 5 nM at pH 8, which is the lowest reported value for a designed Cu2+-binding peptide. This peptide displayed more than 100-fold selectivity for Cu2+ over Zn2+, Ni2+, and Co2+. The 1.05 A crystal structure of the Cu(II)-complex of 2 revealed a square-pyramidal coordination geometry and confirmed that 2 bound to copper in an alpha-helical conformation via its two histidine side chains. The high affinity metal binding of peptide 2 demonstrates that metals can be used for the selective nucleation of alpha-helices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9187-9193
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2006


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