Robust de novo designed homotetrameric coiled coils

Caitlin L Edgell, Nigel J Savery, Dek N Woolfson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
152 Downloads (Pure)


De novo designed protein domains are increasingly being applied in biotechnology, cell biology and synthetic biology. Therefore, it is imperative that these proteins are robust to superficial changes, i.e., small changes to their amino-acid sequences should not cause gross structural changes. In turn, this allows properties such as stability and solubility to be tuned without affecting structural attributes like tertiary fold and quaternary interactions. Reliably designed proteins with predictable behaviors may then be used as scaffolds to incorporate function, e.g., through the introduction of features for small-molecule, metal or macromolecular binding, and enzyme-like active sites. Generally, achieving this requires the starting protein fold to be well understood. Herein, we focus on designing α-helical coiled coils, which are well studied, widespread and often direct protein-protein interactions in natural systems. Our initial investigations reveal that a previously designed parallel, homotetrameric coiled coil, CCTet, is not robust to sequence changes that were anticipated to maintain its structure. Instead, the alterations switch the oligomeric state from tetramer to trimer. To improve the robustness of designed homotetramers, additional sequences based on CC-Tet were produced and characterized in solution and by X-ray crystallography. Of these updated sequences, one is robust to truncation and to changes in surface electrostatics; we call this CC-Tet*. Variants of the general CC-Tet* design provide a set of homotetrameric coiled coils with unfolding temperatures in the range 40 ˚C to >95 ˚C. We anticipate that these will be of use in applications requiring robust and well defined tetramerization domains.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Early online date9 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Mar 2020

Structured keywords

  • BrisSynBio
  • Bristol BioDesign Institute


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