Prediction of structural stability of short beta-hairpin peptides by molecular dynamics and knowledge-based potentials
Phage display of peptide libraries has become a powerful tool for the evolution of novel ligands that bind virtually any protein target. However, the rules governing conformational preferences in natural peptides are poorly understood, and consequently, structure-activity relationships in these molecules can be difficult to define. In an effort to simplify this process, we have investigated the structural stability of 10-residue, disulfide-constrained beta-hairpins and assessed their suitability as scaffolds for beta-turn display. Using disulfide formation as a probe, relative free energies of folding were measured for 19 peptides that differ at a one strand position. A tryptophan substitution promotes folding to a remarkable degree. NMR analysis confirms that the measured energies correlate well with the degree of beta-hairpin structure in the disulfide-cyclized peptides. Reexamination of a subset of the strand substitutions in peptides with different turn sequences reveals linear free energy relationships, indicating that turns and strand-strand interactions make independent, additive contributions to hairpin stability. Significantly, the tryptophan strand substitution is highly stabilizing with all turns tested, and peptides that display model turns or the less stable C'-C' ' turn of CD4 on this tryptophan "stem" are highly structured beta-hairpins in water. Thus, we have developed a small, structured beta-turn scaffold, containing only natural L-amino acids, that may be used to display peptide libraries of limited conformational diversity on phage.