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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Exploiting protein flexibility to predict the location of allosteric sites

Alejandro Panjkovich1 and Xavier Daura12*

Author affiliations

1 , Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (IBB)Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain

2 , Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain

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Citation and License

BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:273  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-273

Published: 25 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Allostery is one of the most powerful and common ways of regulation of protein activity. However, for most allosteric proteins identified to date the mechanistic details of allosteric modulation are not yet well understood. Uncovering common mechanistic patterns underlying allostery would allow not only a better academic understanding of the phenomena, but it would also streamline the design of novel therapeutic solutions. This relatively unexplored therapeutic potential and the putative advantages of allosteric drugs over classical active-site inhibitors fuel the attention allosteric-drug research is receiving at present. A first step to harness the regulatory potential and versatility of allosteric sites, in the context of drug-discovery and design, would be to detect or predict their presence and location. In this article, we describe a simple computational approach, based on the effect allosteric ligands exert on protein flexibility upon binding, to predict the existence and position of allosteric sites on a given protein structure.

Results

By querying the literature and a recently available database of allosteric sites, we gathered 213 allosteric proteins with structural information that we further filtered into a non-redundant set of 91 proteins. We performed normal-mode analysis and observed significant changes in protein flexibility upon allosteric-ligand binding in 70% of the cases. These results agree with the current view that allosteric mechanisms are in many cases governed by changes in protein dynamics caused by ligand binding. Furthermore, we implemented an approach that achieves 65% positive predictive value in identifying allosteric sites within the set of predicted cavities of a protein (stricter parameters set, 0.22 sensitivity), by combining the current analysis on dynamics with previous results on structural conservation of allosteric sites. We also analyzed four biological examples in detail, revealing that this simple coarse-grained methodology is able to capture the effects triggered by allosteric ligands already described in the literature.

Conclusions

We introduce a simple computational approach to predict the presence and position of allosteric sites in a protein based on the analysis of changes in protein normal modes upon the binding of a coarse-grained ligand at predicted cavities. Its performance has been demonstrated using a newly curated non-redundant set of 91 proteins with reported allosteric properties. The software developed in this work is available upon request from the authors.