The relationship between sequence and interaction divergence in proteins

J Mol Biol. 2003 Oct 3;332(5):989-98. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2003.07.006.


There is currently a gap in knowledge between complexes of known three-dimensional structure and those known from other experimental methods such as affinity purifications or the two-hybrid system. This gap can sometimes be bridged by methods that extrapolate interaction information from one complex structure to homologues of the interacting proteins. To do this, it is important to know if and when proteins of the same type (e.g. family, superfamily or fold) interact in the same way. Here, we study interactions of known structure to address this question. We found all instances within the structural classification of proteins database of the same domain pairs interacting in different complexes, and then compared them with a simple measure (interaction RMSD). When plotted against sequence similarity we find that close homologues (30-40% or higher sequence identity) almost invariably interact the same way. Conversely, similarity only in fold (i.e. without additional evidence for a common ancestor) is only rarely associated with a similarity in interaction. The results suggest that there is a twilight zone of sequence similarity where it is not possible to say whether or not domains will interact similarly. We also discuss the rare instances of fold similarities interacting the same way, and those where obviously homologous proteins interact differently.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence*
  • Animals
  • Databases as Topic
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation*
  • Protein Folding*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • Software


  • Proteins