Binding interface change and cryptic variation in the evolution of protein-protein interactions



Abstract Background Physical interactions between proteins are essential for almost all biological functions and systems. To understand the evolution of function it is therefore important to understand the evolution of molecular interactions. Of key importance is the evolution of binding specificity, the set of interactions made by a protein, since change in specificity can lead to â rewiringâ of interaction networks. Unfortunately, the interfaces through which proteins interact are complex, typically containing many amino-acid residues that collectively must contribute to binding specificity as well as binding affinity, structural integrity of the interface and solubility in the unbound state. Results In order to study the relationship between interface composition and binding specificity, we make use of paralogous pairs of yeast proteins. Immediately after duplication these paralogues will have identical sequences and protein products that make an identical set of interactions. As the sequences diverge, we can correlate amino-acid change in the interface with any change in the specificity of binding. We show that change in interface regions correlates only weakly with change in specificity, and many variants in interfaces are functionally equivalent. We show that many of the residue replacements within interfaces are silent with respect to their contribution to binding specificity. Conclusions We conclude that such functionally-equivalent change has the potential to contribute to evolutionary plasticity in interfaces by creating cryptic variation, which in turn may provide the raw material for functional innovation and coevolution.
Date made available18 Feb 2016

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