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Open Access Research article

Protein binding hot spots and the residue-residue pairing preference: a water exclusion perspective

Qian Liu and Jinyan Li*

Author Affiliations

Bioinformatics Research Center & School of Computer Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 639798

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:244  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-244

Published: 12 May 2010

Abstract

Background

A protein binding hot spot is a small cluster of residues tightly packed at the center of the interface between two interacting proteins. Though a hot spot constitutes a small fraction of the interface, it is vital to the stability of protein complexes. Recently, there are a series of hypotheses proposed to characterize binding hot spots, including the pioneering O-ring theory, the insightful 'coupling' and 'hot region' principle, and our 'double water exclusion' (DWE) hypothesis. As the perspective changes from the O-ring theory to the DWE hypothesis, we examine the physicochemical properties of the binding hot spots under the new hypothesis and compare with those under the O-ring theory.

Results

The requirements for a cluster of residues to form a hot spot under the DWE hypothesis can be mathematically satisfied by a biclique subgraph if a vertex is used to represent a residue, an edge to indicate a close distance between two residues, and a bipartite graph to represent a pair of interacting proteins. We term these hot spots as DWE bicliques. We identified DWE bicliques from crystal packing contacts, obligate and non-obligate interactions. Our comparative study revealed that there are abundant unique bicliques to the biological interactions, indicating specific biological binding behaviors in contrast to crystal packing. The two sub-types of biological interactions also have their own signature bicliques. In our analysis on residue compositions and residue pairing preferences in DWE bicliques, the focus was on interaction-preferred residues (ipRs) and interaction-preferred residue pairs (ipRPs). It is observed that hydrophobic residues are heavily involved in the ipRs and ipRPs of the obligate interactions; and that aromatic residues are in favor in the ipRs and ipRPs of the biological interactions, especially in those of the non-obligate interactions. In contrast, the ipRs and ipRPs in crystal packing are dominated by hydrophilic residues, and most of the anti-ipRs of crystal packing are the ipRs of the obligate or non-obligate interactions.

Conclusions

These ipRs and ipRPs in our DWE bicliques describe a diverse binding features among the three types of interactions. They also highlight the specific binding behaviors of the biological interactions, sharply differing from the artifact interfaces in the crystal packing. It can be noted that DWE bicliques, especially the unique bicliques, can capture deep insights into the binding characteristics of protein interfaces.