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The structure of the T6 hexameric form of human insulin has been determined at both room temperature and 100 K from a single air-dried crystal. At 100 K, the space group is R3 and the asymmetric unit consists of a dimer, as has been observed previously in hydrated structures. At room temperature, the space group is P1 and the unit cell contains a quasi-threefold-symmetric hexamer. In the absence of stabilizing water interactions, the N-termini of all six A chains in the room-temperature structure appear to have undergone partial unfolding, but the N-termini of these chains are well ordered in the 100 K structure. Other differences between the room-temperature and 100 K structures involve the coordination around the zinc ions. At 100 K, both zinc ions clearly exhibit dual coordination: zinc is octahedrally coordinated in one half of the zinc sites but tetrahedrally coordinated in the other half; at room temperature, the electron densities suggest tetrahedral coordination but the bond distances to the fourth ligands are longer than expected. Contrary to what has been observed to date in all other T6 insulin structures, there are no contacts between pairs of GluB13 residues, either at room temperature or at 100 K, that would suggest the presence of a hydrogen bond. At room temperature, three of the six independent GluB13 side chains are disordered; at 100 K, both independent side chains are disordered. The disorder in the GluB13 side chains and the lack of contacts between carboxylate groups suggests that as a result of disruption of the hydration structure in the central core of the hexamer, all six B13 carboxylates bear a negative charge. This in turn suggests that in the hydrated structures the well ordered water structure in the central core is involved in stabilizing the B13 side-chain conformations and modulating charge repulsions among the six B13 glutamates if they are not protonated, or that, as is considered more likely, the water structure plays an important role in modulating the pKa values of the B13 glutamates, resulting in protonation and hydrogen-bond formation.

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