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Structure. 2012 Oct 10;20(10):1715-25. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2012.07.016. Epub 2012 Aug 30.

Identification of unknown protein function using metabolite cocktail screening.

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Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Proteins of unknown function comprise a significant fraction of sequenced genomes. Defining the roles of these proteins is vital to understanding cellular processes. Here, we describe a method to determine a protein function based on the identification of its natural ligand(s) by the crystallographic screening of the binding of a metabolite library, followed by a focused search in the metabolic space. The method was applied to two protein families with unknown function, PF01256 and YjeF_N. The PF01256 proteins, represented by YxkO from Bacillus subtilis and the C-terminal domain of Tm0922 from Thermotoga maritima, were shown to catalyze ADP/ATP-dependent NAD(P)H-hydrate dehydratation, a previously described orphan activity. The YjeF_N proteins, represented by mouse apolipoprotein A-I binding protein and the N-terminal domain of Tm0922, were found to interact with an adenosine diphosphoribose-related substrate and likely serve as ADP-ribosyltransferases. Crystallographic screening of metabolites serves as an efficient tool in functional analyses of uncharacterized proteins.

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