The structure of a synthetic peptide comprising the 28 amino-terminal residues of actin has been examined by 1H-NMR and CD spectroscopy. The peptide is largely unstructured and flexible in solution but becomes increasingly structured at higher trifluoroethanol (TFE) concentrations. As judged by CD with the use of two additional peptides (actin 1-20 and actin 18-28), TFE induces formation of up to 48% helical content within residues 1-20, while residues 21-28 exhibit no helical propensity. Similar results were obtained by using NMR-derived distance information in restrained molecular dynamics calculations. The calculated structure of actin 1-28 peptide in 80% TFE is well defined for the first 23 residues with a backbone root mean square deviation of 0.5 Å. Two helices are formed from residues 4-13 and 16-20, and a β-turn is formed from residues 13-16. The N-terminal residues 1-3 exhibit increased flexibility and a helix-like conformation while the C-terminal residues 21-28 show no regular secondary structure. These results are compared with the predicted secondary structure and the structure of the corresponding sequence in the crystal structure of actin [Kabsch et al. (1990) Nature 347, 37-44], The significance of the TFE-induced peptide structure is discussed.
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