The Small β-barrel Domain: A Survey-based Structural Analysis
The small beta-barrel is an ancient protein structural domain characterized by extremes: It features an extremely broad range of structural varieties, a deeply intricate evolutionary history, and it is associated with a bewildering array of biomolecular pathways and physiological functions. These and related features of this domain are described and analyzed herein. Specifically, we present a comprehensive, survey-based analysis of the structural properties of small beta-barrels (SBBs). We first consider the defining characteristics of the SBB fold, as well as the various systems of nomenclature used to describe it. In order to begin elucidating how such vast functional diversity is achieved by a relatively simple protein domain, we then explore the anatomy of the SBB fold and some of its representative structural variants. Many types of SBB proteins assemble into cyclic oligomers that act as the biologically-functional entity. These oligomers exhibit a great deal of plasticity even at the quaternary structural level - including homomeric and heteromeric assemblies, rings of variable subunit stoichiometries (pentamer, hexamer, etc.), as well as higher-order oligomers (e.g., double-rings) and fibrillar polymers. We conclude with three themes that emerge from the unique structure-function versatility of SBB.
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