Letter | Published:

Structure of Feather Keratin

Naturevolume 191pages171173 (1961) | Download Citation



FEATHER keratin is the outstanding protein fibre structure that still lacks an interpretation generally acceptable in any detail. It has long been known1 that its X-ray diffraction diagram is of a β-type with the strong indication that the residue-length is only about 31/10 Å. instead of the 31/10 Å. and 31/10 Å. found in β-keratin and silk fibroin, and it has corpuscular properties besides2, especially as demonstrated in the paper by Bear and Rugo3, supported also by physico-chemical studies and the finding that the unit is probably a cyclic polypeptide4. In Bear and Rugo's scheme the structure is based on a net of corpuscular units the nodes of which are at approximately (0, 0), (0, ½), (½, ¼), and (½, ¾), the plane of the net containing both the main-chain and side-chain directions. Continuing from this point and associated observations by the same authors, it is the purpose of this communication to state what we believe to be a very strong case for the structure of the corpuscles themselves. The principal steps in the argument may be summarized as follows :

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  1. Department of Biomolecular Structure, University of Leeds

    • W. T. ASTBURY
    •  & E. BEIGHTON


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