Metals in proteins: Correlation between the metal-ion type, coordination number and the amino-acid residues involved in the coordination

Ivan Dokmanić, Mile Šikić, Sanja Tomić

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metal ions are constituents of many metalloproteins, in which they have either catalytic (metalloenzymes) or structural functions. In this work, the characteristics of various metals were studied (Cu, Zn, Mg, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cd and Ca in proteins with known crystal structure) as well as the specificity of their environments. The analysis was performed on two data sets: the set of protein structures in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) determined with resolution <1.5 Å and the set of nonredundant protein structures from the PDB. The former was used to determine the distances between each metal ion and its electron donors and the latter was used to assess the preferred coordination numbers and common combinations of amino-acid residues in the neighbourhood of each metal. Although the metal ions considered predominantly had a valence of two, their preferred coordination number and the type of amino-acid residues that participate in the coordination differed significantly from one metal ion to the next. This study concentrates on finding the specificities of a metal-ion environment, namely the distribution of coordination numbers and the amino-acid residue types that frequently take part in coordination. Furthermore, the correlation between the coordination number and the occurrence of certain amino-acid residues (quartets and triplets) in a metal-ion coordination sphere was analysed. The results obtained are of particular value for the identification and modelling of metal-binding sites in protein structures derived by homology modelling. Knowledge of the geometry and characteristics of the metal-binding sites in metalloproteins of known function can help to more closely determine the biological activity of proteins of unknown function and to aid in design of proteins with specific affinity for certain metals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-263
Number of pages7
JournalActa Crystallographica Section D: Biological Crystallography
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 20 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Metal coordination number
  • Metal coordination sphere
  • Metal ions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


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