We present a brief summary of the key factors underlying protein structure, as developed in the investigations of Pauling, Ramachandran, and Rose. We then outline a simplified physical model of proteins that focuses on geometry and symmetry. Although this model superficially appears unrelated to the detailed chemical descriptions commonly applied to proteins, we show that it captures the essential elements of the chemistry and provides a unified framework for understanding the common characteristics of folded proteins. We suggest that the spectrum of protein native state structures is determined by geometry and symmetry and the role of the sequence is to choose its native state structure from this predetermined menu.
2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.