Fibrous Proteins

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Tropomyosin α-1 chain (PDB code 3mtu)

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Fibrous proteins are made up of polypeptide chains that are elongated and fibrous in nature or have a sheet like structure. These fibers and sheets are mechanically strong and are water insoluble. They are often structural proteins that provide strenth and protection to cells and tissue. Two coiled coil chains of tropomyosin are shown in the scene to the right. The α-keratins are fibrous proteins involved in the structure of hair, finger nails and horns, and their secondary structure is the α-helix with a higher level of structure being the coiled coil. Fibroins (a β-keratin) are fibrous proteins making up silk and spider webs, and their secodary structure is β-sheets. Collagen is an abundant fibrous protein in vertebrate animals being found in tendons, cartilage and bone, and it has a unique structure. Elastin is an important component of tissues, such as ligaments and skin, and is highly elastic. Its polymeric fibers are made from monomeric units having no secondary structure but having a flexible, disordered structure. The disordered structure permits it to stretch in two dimensions.

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Karl Oberholser, Michal Harel, Israel Hanukoglu

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