Cellulose and the twofold screw axis: modeling and experimental arguments
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Crystallography indicates that molecules in crystalline cellulose either have twofold screw-axis (21) symmetry or closely approximate it, leading to short distances between H4 and H1′ across the glycosidic linkage. Therefore, modeling studies of cellobiose often show elevated energies for 21 structures, and experimental observations are often interpreted in terms of intramolecular strain. Also, some computer models of cellulose crystallites have an overall twist as well as twisted individual chains, again violating 21 symmetry. To gain insight on the question of inherent strain in 21 structures, modeling was employed and crystal structures of small molecules were surveyed. (Residues in a disaccharide cannot be related by 21 symmetry because they are not identical but if their linkage geometry would lead to 21 symmetry for an infinite cellulose chain, the disaccharide would have 21 pseudo symmetry.) Several initial structures in quantum mechanics (QM) studies of cellobiose minimized to structures having 21 pseudo symmetry. Similarly, a number of relevant small molecules in experimental crystal structures have pseudo symmetry. While the QM models of cellobiose with 21 pseudo symmetry had inter-residue hydrogen bonding, the experimental studies included cellotriose undecaacetate, a molecule that cannot form conventional hydrogen bonds. Limitations in characterizing symmetry based on the linkage torsion angles ϕ and ψ were also explored. It is concluded that 21 structures have little intrinsic strain, despite indications from empirical models.
KeywordsHelix shape Carbohydrate conformation Computational chemistry Ramachandran map Space group Helical chirality
This work was funded by normal research funding from the Agricultural Research Service, CRIS project 44000-6435-070-00D. We thank Professor Carlos Stortz, Dr. Michael Santiago Cintrón and Dr. James Rodgers for helpful comments on the paper.
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