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alpha-Aminoisobutyric acid (Aib) is a helicogenic alpha, alpha-dimethyl amino acid found in channel-forming peptaibols such as alamethicin. Possible effects of Aib on helix-helix packing are analyzed. Simulated annealing via restrained molecular dynamics is used to generate ensembles of approximately parallel helix dimers. Analysis of variations in geometrical and energetic parameters within ensembles defines how tightly a pair of helices interact. Simple hydrophobic helix dimers are compared: Ala20, Leu20, Aib20, and P20, the latter a simple channel-forming peptide [G. Menestrina, K.P. Voges, G. Jung, and G. Boheim (1986) Journal of Membrane Biology, Vol. 93, pp. 111-132]. Ala20 and Leu20 dimers exhibit well-defined ridges-in-grooves packing with helix crossing angles (omega) of the order of +20 degrees. Aib20 alpha-helix dimers are much more loosely packed, as evidenced by a wide range of omega values and small helix-helix interaction energies. However, when in a 3(10) conformation Aib20 helices pack in three well-defined parallel modes, with omega ca. -15 degrees, +5 degrees, and 10 degrees. Comparison of helix-helix interaction energies suggests that dimerization may favor the 3(10) conformation. P20, with 8 Aib residues, also shows looser packing of alpha-helices. The results of these studies of hydrophobic helix dimers are analyzed in the context of the ridges-in-grooves packing model. Simulations are extended to dimers of alamethicin, and of an alamethicin derivative in which all Aib residues are replaced by Leu. This substitution has little effect on helix-helix packing. Rather, such interactions appear to be sensitive to interactions between polar side chains. Overall, the results suggest that Aib may modulate the packing of simple hydrophobic helices, in favor of looser interactions. For more complex amphipathic helices, interactions between polar side chains may be more critical.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





639 - 655


Alamethicin, Amino Acid Sequence, Aminoisobutyric Acids, Computer Simulation, Macromolecular Substances, Models, Molecular, Models, Structural, Molecular Sequence Data, Protein Structure, Secondary, Structure-Activity Relationship