During the 1950s Crick made important contributions not only to the study of DNA and the genetic code, but to X-ray protein
structure analysis. Establishing the three-dimensional molecular structure of various proteins from X-ray diffraction patterns
was a major goal, and a major challenge, for X-ray crystallographers and protein chemists at the time. Crick was instrumental
in extending helical diffraction theory to construct such three-dimensional maps of protein molecules from X-ray data. In
this paper, he proposes a brilliant simplification by which alpha keratin, the prototypical fibrous protein of which nails
and hair are made, could be shown to consist of two Pauling-Corey alpha helixes, slightly deformed and coiling around one
another, with the amino acid protrusions from one helix fitting into corresponding holes in the other. The bending, or deformation,
in the axis of each alpha helix meant that it was twisted into a higher-order, larger helix. Crick went on to calculate the
complicated X-ray diffraction pattern such a super helix, or coiled coil, would produce.
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1952-11-22 (November 22, 1952)
Periodical: Crick, Francis. "Is [alpha]-Keratin a Coiled Coil?" Nature 170, 4334 (22 November 1952): 882-883. Article. 2 Images.
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Reproduced with permission of the Nature Publishing Group.