Crystal structure of an isoleucine-zipper trimer.Nature. 1994 Sep 01; 371(6492):80-3.Nat
Subunit oligomerization in many proteins is mediated by short coiled-coil motifs. These motifs share a characteristic seven-amino-acid repeat containing hydrophobic residues at the first (a) and fourth (d) positions. Despite this common pattern, different sequences form two-, three- and four-stranded helical ropes. We have investigated the basis for oligomer choice by characterizing variants of the GCN4 leucine-zipper dimerization domain that adopt trimeric or tetrameric structures in response to mutations at the a and d positions. We now report the high-resolution X-ray crystal structure of an isoleucine-containing mutant that folds into a parallel three-stranded, alpha-helical coiled coil. In contrast to the dimer and tetramer structures, the interior packing of the trimer can accommodate beta-branched residues in the most preferred rotamer at both hydrophobic positions. Compatibility of the shape of the core amino acids with the distinct packing spaces in the two-, three- and four-stranded conformations appears to determine the oligomerization state of the GCN4 leucine-zipper variants.