On the appearance and role of a spacer group in the protein amino acids.

TitleOn the appearance and role of a spacer group in the protein amino acids.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1988
AuthorsTompa, P.
JournalJ Mol Evol
Date Published1988
KeywordsAmino Acids, Biological Evolution, Proteins, Ribosomes, Structure-Activity Relationship

Of the 20 protein amino acids, 16 have a methylene group at the beta position, and a further three bear a methine group. No aromatic, carboxamido, carboxylic carbon, or hetero atoms are attached directly to the alpha carbon, but they are separated by this methylene or occasionally by a longer n-alkylene spacer group. Therefore, the structure of the protein amino acids should rather be formulated as H2N-CH((CH2)n-R')-COOH instead of the generally accepted H2N-CH(R)-COOH. The appearance of and the role played by the spacer group are discussed in an evolutionary context. It is suggested that the spacer group appeared as a result of prebiotic selection, based on the relative abundance, racemization rate, and suitability for thermal polymerization of the protein amino acids and their homologs with various spacer group lengths. At the biotic level of evolution the requirements for ribosomal polymerization, as well as the abilities of polypeptides to maintain a stable and flexible three-dimensional structure and to bind ligands are considered and are proposed to have been responsible for the possible exclusion of longer spacer groups. It is concluded that the general role of the spacer group is to ensure the uniformity of the constant regions H2N-CH(-)-COOH and the individuality of the R' contact groups by spatially separating them.

Alternate JournalJ. Mol. Evol.
PubMed ID3137353