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J Mol Biol. 2003 Dec 5;334(4):823-41.

Sequence, structure and energetic determinants of phosphopeptide selectivity of SH2 domains.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Here, we present an approach for the prediction of binding preferences of members of a large protein family for which structural information for a number of family members bound to a substrate is available. The approach involves a number of steps. First, an accurate multiple alignment of sequences of all members of a protein family is constructed on the basis of a multiple structural superposition of family members with known structure. Second, the methods of continuum electrostatics are used to characterize the energetic contribution of each residue in a protein to the binding of its substrate. Residues that make a significant contribution are mapped onto the protein sequence and are used to define a "binding site signature" for the complex being considered. Third, sequences whose structures have not been determined are checked to see if they have binding-site signatures similar to one of the known complexes. Predictions of binding affinity to a given substrate are based on similarities in binding-site signature. An important component of the approach is the introduction of a context-specific substitution matrix suitable for comparison of binding-site residues. The methods are applied to the prediction of phosphopeptide selectivity of SH2 domains. To this end, the energetic roles of all protein residues in 17 different complexes of SH2 domains with their cognate targets are analyzed. The total number of residues that make significant contributions to binding is found to vary from nine to 19 in different complexes. These energetically important residues are found to contribute to binding through a variety of mechanisms, involving both electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions. Binding-site signatures are found to involve residues in different positions in SH2 sequences, some of them as far as 9A away from a bound peptide. Surprisingly, similarities in the signatures of different domains do not correlate with whole-domain sequence identities unless the latter is greater than 50%. An extensive comparison with the optimal binding motifs determined by peptide library experiments, as well as other experimental data indicate that the similarity in binding preferences of different SH2 domains can be deduced on the basis of their binding-site signatures. The analysis provides a rationale for the empirically derived classification of SH2 domains described by Songyang & Cantley, in that proteins in the same group are found to have similar residues at positions important for binding. Confident predictions of binding preference can be made for about 85% of SH2 domain sequences found in SWISSPROT. The approach described in this work is quite general and can, in principle, be used to analyze binding preferences of members of large protein families for which structural information for a number of family members is available. It also offers a strategy for predicting cross-reactivity of compounds designed to bind to a particular target, for example in structure-based drug design.

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