Protein folds propelled by diversity

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2001;76(1-2):103-30. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6107(01)00007-4.


Many proteins involved in key biological processes are modular in nature. A group of these, the beta-propeller proteins, fold by packing 4-stranded beta-sheets in a circular array. The members of this group are increasingly numerous and, although their modular building blocks all preserve the same basic conformation, they do not have similar sequences. These proteins have extreme functional and phylogenetic diversity. Here, features of the beta-propeller fold are reviewed through comparisons of available structural coordinates. Structure-based sequence alignments combined with analyses of superpositions of individual modular units reveal conserved general features such as hydrogen bonds, beta-turns and positions of hydrophobic contacts. The lack of significant sequence identity is compensated by sets of interactions which stabilise the fold differently in distinct structures. Re-occurring aspartates make contacts to exposed backbone amides in turns or peptide connections within the same sheet. The sole factor responsible for the number of sheets that assemble in the array is the size of the hydrophobic residues that pack into the cores between the sheets. Whilst there is no overall sequence conservation, it may be possible to detect new members of this fold through sequence searches that take into account the repeated nature of the modular assembly as well as the positions of hydrophobic residues and H-bonding side chains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Folding*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary*
  • Proteins / chemistry*


  • Proteins