Using diastereopeptides to control metal ion coordination in proteins

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Here, we report a previously undescribed approach for controlling metal ion coordination geometry in biomolecules by reorientating amino acid side chains through substitution of L- to D-amino acids. These diastereopeptides allow us to manipulate the spatial orientation of amino acid side chains to alter the sterics of metal binding pockets. We have used this approach to design the de novo metallopeptide, Cd(TRIL12L(D)L16C)(3)(-), which is an example of Cd(II) bound to 3 L-Cys as exclusively trigonal CdS3, as characterized by a combination of Cd-113 NMR and Cd-111m PAC spectroscopy. We subsequently show that the physical properties of such a site, such as the high pK(a2) for Cd(II) binding of 15.1, is due to the nature of the coordination number and not the ligating group. Furthermore this approach allowed for the design of a construct, GRANDL12L(D)L16CL26AL30C, capable of independently binding 2 equivalents of Cd(II) to 2 very similar Cys sites as exclusively 3- and 4-, CdS3 and CdS3O, respectively. Demonstrating that we are capable of controlling the Cd(II) coordination number in these 2 sites solely by varying the nature of a noncoordinating second coordination sphere amino acid, with D-leucine and L-alanine resulting in exclusively 3- and 4-coordinate structures, respectively. Cd(II) was found to selectively bind to the 4-coordinate CdS3O site, demonstrating that a protein can be designed that displays metalbinding selectivity based solely on coordination number control and not on the chemical identity of coordinating ligands.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16566-16571
Number of pages6
JournalNational Academy of Sciences. Proceedings
Issue number43
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2008


  • de novo metallopeptide design, coiled-coil peptides, cadmium, D-amino acids