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Open Access Research article

Identification of new, well-populated amino-acid sidechain rotamers involving hydroxyl-hydrogen atoms and sulfhydryl-hydrogen atoms

Bosco K Ho* and David A Agard

Author Affiliations

Department of Biochemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco CA 94158-2517

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BMC Structural Biology 2008, 8:41  doi:10.1186/1472-6807-8-41

Published: 7 October 2008



An important element in homology modeling is the use of rotamers to parameterize the sidechain conformation. Despite the many libraries of sidechain rotamers that have been developed, a number of rotamers have been overlooked, due to the fact that they involve hydrogen atoms.


We identify new, well-populated rotamers that involve the hydroxyl-hydrogen atoms of Ser, Thr and Tyr, and the sulfhydryl-hydrogen atom of Cys, using high-resolution crystal structures (<1.2 Å). Although there were refinement artifacts in these structures, comparison with the electron-density maps allowed the placement of hydrogen atoms involved in hydrogen bonds. The χ2 rotamers in Ser, Thr and Cys are consistent with tetrahedral bonding, while the χ3 rotamers in Tyr are consistent with trigonal-planar bonding. Similar rotamers are found in hydrogen atoms that were computationally placed with the Reduce program from the Richardson lab.


Knowledge of these new rotamers will improve the evaluation of hydrogen-bonding networks in protein structures.