Higher-order interhelical spatial interactions in membrane proteins

Larisa Adamian, Ronald Jackups, T. Andrew Binkowski, Jie Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Higher-order interactions are important for protein folding and assembly. We introduce the concept of interhelical three-body interactions as derived from Delaunay triangulation and alpha shapes of protein structures. In addition to glycophorin A, where triplets are strongly correlated with protein stability, we found that tight interhelical triplet interactions exist extensively in other membrane proteins, where many types of triplets occur far more frequently than in soluble proteins. We developed a probabilistic model for estimating the value of membrane helical interaction triplet (MHIT) propensity. Because the number of known structures of membrane proteins is limited, we developed a bootstrap method for determining the 95% confidence intervals of estimated MHIT values. We identified triplets that have high propensity for interhelical interactions and are unique to membrane proteins, e.g. AGF, AGG, GLL, GFF and others. A significant fraction (32%) of triplet types contains triplets that may be involved in interhelical hydrogen bond interactions, suggesting the prevalent and important roles of H-bond in the assembly of TM helices. There are several well-defined spatial conformations for triplet interactions on helices with similar parallel or antiparallel orientations and with similar right-handed or left-handed crossing angles. Often, they contain small residues and correspond to the regions of the closest contact between helices. Sequence motifs such as GG4 and AG4 can be part of the three-body interactions that have similar conformations, which in turn can be part of a higher-order cooperative four residue spatial motif observed in helical pairs from different proteins. In many cases, spatial motifs such as serine zipper and polar clamp are part of triplet interactions. On the basis of the analysis of the archaeal rhodopsin family of proteins, tightly packed triplet interactions can be achieved with several different choices of amino acid residues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-272
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 14 2003


  • Alpha shape
  • Hydrogen bond
  • Membrane protein
  • Structure clustering
  • Three-body interaction


Dive into the research topics of 'Higher-order interhelical spatial interactions in membrane proteins'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this