Last updated on: 10.07.2021

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In biochemistry, a domain is a combination of elements of the secondary structure (α-helices, β-sheets) of a protein. It represents a complex, folded globular unit. A domain is composed of a clearly defined section of a polypeptide chain. This section usually contains between 50 and 350 amino acid residues. Small proteins often contain only one domain. Larger proteins may contain several domains. These are mostly connected by less structured chain regions.

The shortest domains, such as the zinc finger domain, are stabilized by metal ions or disulfide bridges.

Domains are very often encoded by single exons.

General information
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In general, functional domains and structural domains are defined:

  • Functional domains are associated, for example, with the activity of an enzyme. Its enzymatic function can be determined by genetically exchanging amino acid residues of the protein domain. If, for example, the catalytic activity of an enzyme changes, this gives an indication of the assignment of the amino acid residue in question.
  • Structural domains are areas that have an independent folding (secondary structure). The folding or spatial structure of the peptide segment is partially encoded in the peptide sequence (primary structure) and is supported by chaperones.

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A protein domain can be used in completely different proteins. In evolutionary terms, this enables an increased speed in the formation of new proteins, as protein chains can be assembled without problems due to this modular design.

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Last updated on: 10.07.2021