Membrane recruitment of scaffold proteins drives specific signaling

PLoS One. 2007 Oct 3;2(10):e977. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000977.


Cells must give the right response to each stimulus they receive. Scaffolding, a signaling process mediated by scaffold proteins, participates in the decoding of the cues by specifically directing signal transduction. The aim of this paper is to describe the molecular mechanisms of scaffolding, i.e. the principles by which scaffold proteins drive a specific response of the cell. Since similar scaffold proteins are found in many species, they evolved according to the purpose of each organism. This means they require adaptability. In the usual description of the mechanisms of scaffolding, scaffold proteins are considered as reactors where molecules involved in a cascade of reactions are simultaneously bound with the right orientation to meet and interact. This description is not realistic: (i) it is not verified by experiments and (ii) timing and orientation constraints make it complex which seems to contradict the required adaptability. A scaffold protein, Ste5, is used in the MAPK pathway of Saccharomyces cerevisiae for the cell to provide a specific response to stimuli. The massive amount of data available for this pathway makes it ideal to investigate the actual mechanisms of scaffolding. Here, a complete treatment of the chemical reactions allows the computation of the distributions of all the proteins involved in the MAPK pathway when the cell receives various cues. These distributions are compared to several experimental results. It turns out that the molecular mechanisms of scaffolding are much simpler and more adaptable than previously thought in the reactor model. Scaffold proteins bind only one molecule at a time. Then, their membrane recruitment automatically drives specific, amplified and localized signal transductions. The mechanisms presented here, which explain how the membrane recruitment of a protein can produce a drastic change in the activity of cells, are generic and may be commonly used in many biological processes.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / physiology
  • Biochemistry / methods
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Diffusion
  • Fungal Proteins / physiology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Chemical
  • Phosphorylation
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / physiology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Fungal Proteins
  • STE5 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins