Abstract

Bioactive peptides of different sources and biological functionalities, like endothelins, sarafotoxins, bee and scorpion venom toxins, contain a consensus cystine framework, Cys-(X)1-Cys/Cys-(X)3-Cys, which has been found to induce and stabilize a homologous folding motif named the cystine-stabilized alpha-helix (CSH). This is composed of an alpha-helical segment spanning the Cys-(X)3-Cys sequence portion that is crosslinked by two disulfide bridges to the sequence portion Cys-(X)1-Cys, itself folded in an extended beta-strand type structure. Search for sequence homologies of peptides and proteins in the SWISS-PROT and PDB data banks provided additional multiple examples of this type of cystine framework in serine proteinase inhibitors, in insect and plant defense proteins, as well as in members of the growth factor family with the cystine-knot. A comparative analysis of the known 3D-structures of these peptides and proteins confirmed that the presence of this peculiar cystine framework leads in all cases to a high degree of local structural homology that consists of the CSH motif, except for the cystine-knot, of the superfamily of the growth factors. In this case the cyclic structure formed by the parallel cysteine connectivities of Cys-(X)1-Cys/Cys-(X)3-Cys framework is penetrated by a third disulfide bond with formation of a concatenated knot, and the two disulfide-bridged peptide chains Cys-(X)1-Cys and Cys-(X)3-Cys are located in beta-strands. Conversely, peptides and proteins containing Cys-(X)m-Cys/Cys-(X)n-Cys cystine frameworks that differ from m/n = 1/3 were found to fold only sporadically into local alpha-helical structures.