PDZ domain proteins: plug and play!

Sci STKE. 2003 Apr 22;2003(179):RE7. doi: 10.1126/stke.2003.179.re7.


Protein-protein interactions are key elements in building functional protein complexes. Among the plethora of domains identified during the last 10 years, PDZ domains are one of the most commonly found protein-protein interaction domains in organisms from bacteria to humans. Although they may be the sole protein interaction domain within a cytoplasmic protein, they are most often found in combination with other protein interaction domains (for instance, SH3, PTB, WW) participating in complexes that facilitate signaling or determine the localization of receptors. Diversity of PDZ-containing protein function is provided by the large number of PDZ proteins that Mother Nature has distributed in the genome and implicates this protein family in the wiring of a huge number of molecules in molecular networks from the plasma membrane to the nucleus. Although at first sight their binding specificity appeared rather monotonous, involving only binding to the carboxyl-terminus of various proteins, it is now recognized that PDZ domains interact with greater versatility through PDZ-PDZ domain interaction; they bind to internal peptide sequences and even to lipids. Furthermore, PDZ domain-mediated interactions can sometimes be modulated in a dynamic way through target phosphorylation. In this review, we attempt to describe the structural basis of PDZ domain recognition and to give some functional insights into their role in the scaffolding of protein complexes implicated in normal and pathological biological processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / physiology
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / classification*
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • Repetitive Sequences, Amino Acid / physiology


  • Proteins