Conformation of alpha zeins in solid state by Fourier transform IR.Biopolymers. 2003; 72(6):421-6.B
The major maize storage proteins (alpha zeins) are deposited as an insoluble mass in the protein bodies of the endosperm. Because they are insoluble in water, most structural studies are performed in alcohol solutions. To solve the question raised by several authors about denaturation of the alpha zein structure by alcohol, we analyze the secondary structure of alpha zeins prepared with and without solubilization in alcohol (corn gluten meal and protein bodies with high concentrations of alpha zeins and traces of beta zeins). The secondary structures of alpha zeins are analyzed in the solid state by Fourier transform IR spectroscopy (FTIR) in KBr pellets and solid-state 13C-NMR spectroscopy. The proportion of secondary structures obtained by FTIR of alpha zeins prepared with and without solubilization in alcohol yield almost identical proportions of alpha helices and beta sheets. The proportion of alpha helices (43%) agrees with that measured by circular dichroism in an alcohol solution. However, the proportion of beta sheets (28%) is higher than the one measured by the same technique. Gluten and protein body samples with high beta zein content showed higher beta sheet and lower alpha helix proportions than that obtained for alpha zein preparations. The solid-state 13C-NMR spectra show the carbonyl peak for the alpha zeins at delta 176 and for the sample rich in beta zeins at delta 172, which demonstrates the presence of a high content of alpha helices and beta sheets, respectively. These results indicate that alcohol solubilization does not affect the conformation of alpha zeins, validating the secondary structure measurements in solution.