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J Struct Biol. 2012 Sep;179(3):320-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2012.02.001. Epub 2012 Feb 11.

Novel insights through the integration of structural and functional genomics data with protein networks.

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Department of Chemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


In recent years, major advances in genomics, proteomics, macromolecular structure determination, and the computational resources capable of processing and disseminating the large volumes of data generated by each have played major roles in advancing a more systems-oriented appreciation of biological organization. One product of systems biology has been the delineation of graph models for describing genome-wide protein-protein interaction networks. The network organization and topology which emerges in such models may be used to address fundamental questions in an array of cellular processes, as well as biological features intrinsic to the constituent proteins (or "nodes") themselves. However, graph models alone constitute an abstraction which neglects the underlying biological and physical reality that the network's nodes and edges are highly heterogeneous entities. Here, we explore some of the advantages of introducing a protein structural dimension to such models, as the marriage of conventional network representations with macromolecular structural data helps to place static node and edge constructs in a biologically more meaningful context. We emphasize that 3D protein structures constitute a valuable conceptual and predictive framework by discussing examples of the insights provided, such as enabling in silico predictions of protein-protein interactions, providing rational and compelling classification schemes for network elements, as well as revealing interesting intrinsic differences between distinct node types, such as disorder and evolutionary features, which may then be rationalized in light of their respective functions within networks.

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