Evolution of proteins formed by β-sheets. I. Plastocyanin and azurin

Cyrus Chothia, Arthur M. Lesk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Plastocyanin and azurin form a family of small copper-containing proteins, active in the electron transport systems of plants and bacteria, respectively. The crystal structures of two members of this family have been determined: poplar leaf plastocyanin and Pseudomonas aeruginosa azurin. Both proteins contain two β-sheets, packed face-to-face. Using computed superpositions of the structures, we have aligned the sequences, identified homologous positions, and studied how the structures have changed as a result of mutations. The residues in the vicinity of the copper-binding site show minimal amino acid substitution and form almost identical structures. Other portions of these proteins are more variable in sequence and in structure. Buried residues tend to maintain their hydrophobic character, but mutations change their volume. The mean variation in volume of homologous buried residues is 54 Å3. The differences in size and shape of these buried residues are accommodated by a 3.8 Å shift in relative position of the packed β-sheets. This shift does not affect the copper binding site, because the residues that form this site are in, or adjacent to, just one of the β-sheets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-323
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 15 1982

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolution of proteins formed by β-sheets. I. Plastocyanin and azurin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this