Role of recurrent hydrophobic residues in catalysis of helix formation by T cell-presented peptides in the presence of lipid vesicles

Academic Program

Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Department of Pharmacology

Publication Date


Document Type



Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


We tested the hypothesis that the recurrence of hydrophobic amino acids in a polypeptide at positions falling in an axial, hydrophobic strip if the sequence were coiled as an alpha helix, can lead to helical nucleation on a hydrophobic surface. The hydrophobic surface could anchor such residues, whereas the peptide sequence grows in a helical configuration that is stabilized by hydrogen bonds among carbonyl and amido NH groups along the peptidyl backbone of the helix, and by other intercycle interactions among amino acid side chains. Such bound, helical structures might protect peptides from proteases and/or facilitate transport to a MHC-containing compartment and thus be reflected in the selection of T cell-presented segments. Helical structure in a series of HPLC-purified peptides was estimated from circular dichroism measurements in: 1) 0.01 M phosphate buffer, pH 7.0, 2) that buffer with 45% trifluoroethanol (TFE), and 3) that buffer with di-O-hexadecyl phosphatidylcholine vesicles. By decreasing the dielectric constant of the buffer, TFE enhances intrapeptide interactions generally, whereas the lipid vesicles only provide a surface for hydrophobic interactions. The peptides varied in their strip-of-helix hydrophobicity indices (SOHHI; the mean Kyte-Doolittle hydrophobicities of residues in an axial strip of an alpha helix) and in proline content. Structural order for peptides with helical circular dichroism spectra was estimated as percentage helicity from circular dichroism theta 222 nm values and peptide concentration. A prototypic alpha helical peptide with three cycles plus two amino acids and an axial hydrophobic strip of four leucyl residues (SOHHI = 3.8) was disordered in phosphate buffer, 58% helical in that buffer with 48% TFE, and 36% helical in that buffer with vesicles. Percentage helicity in the presence of vesicles of the subset of peptides without proline followed their SOHHI values. Peptides with multiple prolyl residues had circular dichroism spectra with strong signals, but since they did not have altered spectra in the presence of vesicles relative to phosphate buffer alone, the hydrophobic surface of the vesicle did not appear to stabilize those structures.


J Immunol. 1990 Aug 1;145(3):899-904.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

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