Single-crystal X-ray diffraction was used to determine the three-dimensional structures of two antigelling oligopeptides, L-lysyl-L-phenylalanyl-L-phenylalanine and L-phenylalanylglycylglycyl-D-phenylalanine, and two antisickling peptide analogues, L-phenylalanine benzyl ester and N-phenylacetyl-L-phenylalanine. Although these bisphenyl compounds are chemically quite different from one another, they demonstrate unusual structural similarities: The molecules have compact conformations in which the two phenyl rings are positioned approximately 5 A apart with interplanar angles approaching 90°, thereby making intramolecular edge-to-face interactions. In addition, the polar atoms, nitrogen and oxygen, are in close proximity without forming intramolecular hydrogen bonds. The relative spatial distribution of polar and nonpolar atoms renders the structures compact and amphipathic. The intramolecular edge-to-face interaction between two aromatic rings, which brings a hydrogen atom with relative positive charge near the π-electron cloud with relative negative charge, is enthalpically favorable and maintains the molecules in a compact and amphipathic conformation. Nonbonded potential energy calculations were used to characterize the energetics of the aromatic-aromatic interaction, and they showed that the observed geometry is stabilized enthalpically by a favorable interaction on the order of-1 to -2 kcal/mol. Structural differences between the two antisickling and the two antigelling agents suggest that molecular volume limits red cell membrane passage. These data provide a molecular structural framework from which to design and synthesize amphipathic bisphenyl compounds that both bind to deoxy sickle cell hemoglobin and cross the erythrocyte membrane.
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