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Structure. 2006 Dec;14(12):1811-21.

"Similarity trap" in protein-protein interactions could be carcinogenic: simulations of p53 core domain complexed with 53BP1 and BRCA1 BRCT domains.

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Basic Research Program, SAIC-Frederick, Inc., Center for Cancer Research Nanobiology Program, National Cancer Institute-Frederick, Frederick, Maryland 21702, USA.


Similar binding sites often imply similar protein-protein interactions and similar functions; however, similar binding sites may also constitute traps for nonfunctional associations. How are similar sites distinguished to prevent misassociations? BRCT domains from breast cancer-susceptibility gene product BRCA1 and protein 53BP1 have similar structures yet different binding behaviors with p53 core domain. 53BP1-BRCT domain forms a stable complex with p53. In contrast, BRCA1-p53 interaction is weak or other mechanisms operate. To delineate the difference, we designed 13 BRCA1-BRCT mutants and computationally investigated the structural and stability changes compared to the experimental p53-53BP1 structure. Interestingly, of the 13, the 2 mutations that are cancerous and involve nonconserved residues are those that enforced p53 core domain binding with BRCA1-BRCT in a way similar to p53-53BP1 binding. Hence, falling into the "similarity trap" may disrupt normal BRCA1 and p53 functions. Our results illustrate how this trap is avoided in the native state.

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