Host pathogen protein interactions predicted by comparative modeling

Protein Sci. 2007 Dec;16(12):2585-96. doi: 10.1110/ps.073228407. Epub 2007 Oct 26.


Pathogens have evolved numerous strategies to infect their hosts, while hosts have evolved immune responses and other defenses to these foreign challenges. The vast majority of host-pathogen interactions involve protein-protein recognition, yet our current understanding of these interactions is limited. Here, we present and apply a computational whole-genome protocol that generates testable predictions of host-pathogen protein interactions. The protocol first scans the host and pathogen genomes for proteins with similarity to known protein complexes, then assesses these putative interactions, using structure if available, and, finally, filters the remaining interactions using biological context, such as the stage-specific expression of pathogen proteins and tissue expression of host proteins. The technique was applied to 10 pathogens, including species of Mycobacterium, apicomplexa, and kinetoplastida, responsible for "neglected" human diseases. The method was assessed by (1) comparison to a set of known host-pathogen interactions, (2) comparison to gene expression and essentiality data describing host and pathogen genes involved in infection, and (3) analysis of the functional properties of the human proteins predicted to interact with pathogen proteins, demonstrating an enrichment for functionally relevant host-pathogen interactions. We present several specific predictions that warrant experimental follow-up, including interactions from previously characterized mechanisms, such as cytoadhesion and protease inhibition, as well as suspected interactions in hypothesized networks, such as apoptotic pathways. Our computational method provides a means to mine whole-genome data and is complementary to experimental efforts in elucidating networks of host-pathogen protein interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Computational Biology*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Interaction Mapping*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Software


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins