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J Mol Biol. 2009 Jan 9;385(1):91-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.09.078. Epub 2008 Oct 9.

Correlated evolution of interacting proteins: looking behind the mirrortree.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, MD 21250, USA.


It has been observed that the evolutionary distances of interacting proteins often display a higher level of similarity than those of noninteracting proteins. This finding indicates that interacting proteins are subject to common evolutionary constraints and constitutes the basis of a method to predict protein interactions known as mirrortree. It has been difficult, however, to identify the direct cause of the observed similarities between evolutionary trees. One possible explanation is the existence of compensatory mutations between partners' binding sites to maintain proper binding. This explanation, though, has been recently challenged, and it has been suggested that the signal of correlated evolution uncovered by the mirrortree method is unrelated to any correlated evolution between binding sites. We examine the contribution of binding sites to the correlation between evolutionary trees of interacting domains. We show that binding neighborhoods of interacting proteins have, on average, higher coevolutionary signal compared with the regions outside binding sites; however, when the binding neighborhood is removed, the remaining domain sequence still contains some coevolutionary signal. In conclusion, the correlation between evolutionary trees of interacting domains cannot exclusively be attributed to the correlated evolution of the binding sites or to common evolutionary pressure exerted on the whole protein domain sequence, each of which contributes to the signal measured by the mirrortree approach.

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