Circular proteins and mechanisms of cyclization

Biopolymers. 2010;94(5):573-83. doi: 10.1002/bip.21422.


Cyclization via head-to-tail linkage of the termini of a peptide chain occurs in only a small percentage of proteins, but engenders the resultant cyclic proteins with exceptional stability. The mechanisms involved are poorly understood and this review attempts to summarize what is known of the events that lead to cyclization. Cyclic proteins are found in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic species. The prokaryotic circular proteins include the bacteriocins and pilins. The eukaryotic circular proteins in mammals include the theta defensins, found in rhesus macaques, and the retrocyclins. Two types of cyclic proteins have been found in plants, the sunflower trypsin inhibitor and the larger, more prolific, group known as cyclotides. The cyclotides from Oldenlandia affinis, the plant in which these cyclotides were first discovered, are processed by an asparaginyl endopeptidase which is a cysteine protease. Cysteine proteases are commonly associated with transpeptidation reactions, which, for suitable substrates can lead to cyclization events. These proteases cleave an amide bond and form an acyl enzyme intermediate before nucleophilic attack by the amine group of the N-terminal residue to form a peptide bond, resulting in a cyclic peptide.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cyclization
  • Cyclotides / chemistry
  • Cyclotides / genetics
  • Cyclotides / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells / chemistry
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides, Cyclic / chemistry*
  • Peptides, Cyclic / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Prokaryotic Cells / chemistry
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary*


  • Cyclotides
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Plant Proteins