An in vivo library-versus-library selection of optimized protein-protein interactions

Nat Biotechnol. 1999 Jul;17(7):683-90. doi: 10.1038/10897.


We describe a rapid and efficient in vivo library-versus-library screening strategy for identifying optimally interacting pairs of heterodimerizing polypeptides. Two leucine zipper libraries, semi-randomized at the positions adjacent to the hydrophobic core, were genetically fused to either one of two designed fragments of the enzyme murine dihydrofolate reductase (mDHFR), and cotransformed into Escherichia coli. Interaction between the library polypeptides reconstituted enzymatic activity of mDHFR, allowing bacterial growth. Analysis of the resulting colonies revealed important biases in the zipper sequences relative to the original libraries, which are consistent with selection for stable, heterodimerizing pairs. Using more weakly associating mDHFR fragments, we increased the stringency of selection. We enriched the best-performing leucine zipper pairs by multiple passaging of the pooled, selected colonies in liquid culture, as the best pairs allowed for better bacterial propagation. This competitive growth allowed small differences among the pairs to be amplified, and different sequence positions were enriched at different rates. We applied these selection processes to a library-versus-library sample of 2.0 x 10(6) combinations and selected a novel leucine zipper pair that may be appropriate for use in further in vivo heterodimerization strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dimerization
  • Escherichia coli / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Leucine Zippers*
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry*
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Peptide Library*
  • Protein Folding*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / chemistry
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / metabolism*


  • Peptide Fragments
  • Peptide Library
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase