A novel scoring approach for protein co-purification data reveals high interaction specificity

PLoS Comput Biol. 2009 Sep;5(9):e1000515. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000515. Epub 2009 Sep 25.


Large-scale protein interaction networks (PINs) have typically been discerned using affinity purification followed by mass spectrometry (AP/MS) and yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) techniques. It is generally recognized that Y2H screens detect direct binary interactions while the AP/MS method captures co-complex associations; however, the latter technique is known to yield prevalent false positives arising from a number of effects, including abundance. We describe a novel approach to compute the propensity for two proteins to co-purify in an AP/MS data set, thereby allowing us to assess the detected level of interaction specificity by analyzing the corresponding distribution of interaction scores. We find that two recent AP/MS data sets of yeast contain enrichments of specific, or high-scoring, associations as compared to commensurate random profiles, and that curated, direct physical interactions in two prominent data bases have consistently high scores. Our scored interaction data sets are generally more comprehensive than those of previous studies when compared against four diverse, high-quality reference sets. Furthermore, we find that our scored data sets are more enriched with curated, direct physical associations than Y2H sets. A high-confidence protein interaction network (PIN) derived from the AP/MS data is revealed to be highly modular, and we show that this topology is not the result of misrepresenting indirect associations as direct interactions. In fact, we propose that the modularity in Y2H data sets may be underrepresented, as they contain indirect associations that are significantly enriched with false negatives. The AP/MS PIN is also found to contain significant assortative mixing; however, in line with a previous study we confirm that Y2H interaction data show weak disassortativeness, thus revealing more clearly the distinctive natures of the interaction detection methods. We expect that our scored yeast data sets are ideal for further biological discovery and that our scoring system will prove useful for other AP/MS data sets.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Affinity
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs*
  • Protein Interaction Mapping / methods*
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / isolation & purification*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Two-Hybrid System Techniques


  • Proteins