De novo proteins as models of radical enzymes. Academic Article uri icon


  • Catalytically essential side-chain radicals have been recognized in a growing number of redox enzymes. Here we present a novel approach to study this class of redox cofactors. Our aim is to construct a de novo protein, a radical maquette, that will provide a protein framework in which to investigate how side-chain radicals are generated, controlled, and directed toward catalysis. A tryptophan and a tyrosine radical maquette, denoted alpha(3)W(1) and alpha(3)Y(1), respectively, have been synthesized. alpha(3)W(1) and alpha(3)Y(1) contain 65 residues each and have molecular masses of 7.4 kDa. The proteins differ only in residue 32, which is the position of their single aromatic side chain. Structural characterization reveals that the proteins fold in water solution into thermodynamically stable, alpha-helical conformations with well-defined tertiary structures. The proteins are resistant to pH changes and remain stable through the physiological pH range. The aromatic residues are shown to be located within the protein interior and shielded from the bulk phase, as designed. Differential pulse voltammetry was used to examine the reduction potentials of the aromatic side chains in alpha(3)W(1) and alpha(3)Y(1) and compare them to the potentials of tryptophan and tyrosine when dissolved in water. The tryptophan and tyrosine potentials were raised considerably when moved from a solution environment to a well-ordered protein milieu. We propose that the increase in reduction potential of the aromatic residues buried within the protein, relative to the solution potentials, is due to a lack of an effective protonic contact between the aromatic residues and the bulk solution.

published proceedings

  • Biochemistry

author list (cited authors)

  • Tommos, C., Skalicky, J. J., Pilloud, D. L., Wand, A. J., & Dutton, P. L.

citation count

  • 176

complete list of authors

  • Tommos, C||Skalicky, JJ||Pilloud, DL||Wand, AJ||Dutton, PL

publication date

  • July 1999