Cucurbit[8]uril Binds Nonterminal Dipeptide Sites with High Affinity and Induces a Type II β-Turn

Paolo Suating, Lauren B. Kimberly, Marc B. Ewe, Sarah L. Chang, John M. Fontenot, Prakash R. Sultane, Christopher W. Bielawski, Daniel A. Decato, Orion B. Berryman, Alexander B. Taylor, Adam R. Urbach

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1 Scopus citations


In an effort to target polypeptides at nonterminal sites, we screened the binding of the synthetic receptor cucurbit[8]uril (Q8) to a small library of tetrapeptides, each containing a nonterminal dipeptide binding site. The resulting leads were characterized in detail using a combination of isothermal titration calorimetry, 1H NMR spectroscopy, electrospray ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (ESI-TOF-MS), and X-ray crystallography. The equilibrium dissociation constant values determined for the binding of Q8 to nonterminal dipeptide sites Lys-Phe (KF) and Phe-Lys (FK) were 60 and 86 nm, respectively. These are to the best of our knowledge the highest affinities reported to date for any synthetic receptor targeting a nonterminal site on an unmodified peptide. A 0.79 Å resolution crystal structure was obtained for the complex of Q8 with the peptide Gly-Gly-Leu-Tyr-Gly-Gly-Gly (GGLYGGG) and reveals structural details of the pair-inclusion motif. The molecular basis for recognition is established to be the inclusion of the side chains of Leu and Tyr residues, as well as an extensive network of hydrogen bonds between the peptide backbone, the carbonyl oxygens of Q8, and proximal water molecules. In addition, the crystal structure reveals that Q8 induces a type II β-turn. The sequence-selectivity, high affinity, reversibility, and detailed structural characterization of this system should facilitate the development of applications involving ligand-induced polypeptide folding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7649-7657
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - Feb 13 2024


  • Receptors, Artificial
  • Dipeptides/chemistry
  • Peptides/chemistry
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Binding Sites


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