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Open Access Research article

Oligomeric protein structure networks: insights into protein-protein interactions

KV Brinda and Saraswathi Vishveshwara*

Author Affiliations

Molecular Biophysics Unit, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India 560012

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BMC Bioinformatics 2005, 6:296  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-296

Published: 10 December 2005

Abstract

Background

Protein-protein association is essential for a variety of cellular processes and hence a large number of investigations are being carried out to understand the principles of protein-protein interactions. In this study, oligomeric protein structures are viewed from a network perspective to obtain new insights into protein association. Structure graphs of proteins have been constructed from a non-redundant set of protein oligomer crystal structures by considering amino acid residues as nodes and the edges are based on the strength of the non-covalent interactions between the residues. The analysis of such networks has been carried out in terms of amino acid clusters and hubs (highly connected residues) with special emphasis to protein interfaces.

Results

A variety of interactions such as hydrogen bond, salt bridges, aromatic and hydrophobic interactions, which occur at the interfaces are identified in a consolidated manner as amino acid clusters at the interface, from this study. Moreover, the characterization of the highly connected hub-forming residues at the interfaces and their comparison with the hubs from the non-interface regions and the non-hubs in the interface regions show that there is a predominance of charged interactions at the interfaces. Further, strong and weak interfaces are identified on the basis of the interaction strength between amino acid residues and the sizes of the interface clusters, which also show that many protein interfaces are stronger than their monomeric protein cores. The interface strengths evaluated based on the interface clusters and hubs also correlate well with experimentally determined dissociation constants for known complexes. Finally, the interface hubs identified using the present method correlate very well with experimentally determined hotspots in the interfaces of protein complexes obtained from the Alanine Scanning Energetics database (ASEdb). A few predictions of interface hot spots have also been made based on the results obtained from this analysis, which await experimental verification.

Conclusion

The construction and analysis of oligomeric protein structure networks and their comparison with monomeric protein structure networks provide insights into protein association. Further, the interface hubs identified using the present method can be effective targets for interface de-stabilizing mutations. We believe this analysis will significantly enhance our knowledge of the principles behind protein association and also aid in protein design.