Tertiary Structure

Tertiary structure is the most complicated level of structuring in biological and other molecules. After the molecule has adopted secondary structure, such as a helix or a beta sheet, it folds further. Attractive forces also facilitate this folding, but parts of the molecule that are very far away from each other in the primary sequence of amino acids can end up right next to each other in the tertiary structure.

Below is a picture of a protein that illustrates tertiary structure. Many helices align here to form a compact molecule instead of one long chain.

Hold the arrow from your mouse over the protein and hold down the left mouse button. This will allow you to move and manipulate the structure.

Tertiary structure has not been definitively observed in beta peptides such as the ones Professor Gellman's group designs, but it is a goal of the research group to some day be able to observe it.