Time, the forgotten dimension of ligand binding teaching

Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2006 Nov;34(6):413-6. doi: 10.1002/bmb.2006.494034062678.


Ligand binding is generally explained in terms of the equilibrium constant K(d) for the protein-ligand complex dissociation. However, both theoretical considerations and experimental data point to the life span of the protein-ligand complex as an important, but generally overlooked, aspect of ligand binding by macromolecules. Short-lived protein-ligand complexes may be unable to trigger further biological processes as signal transduction or internalization if such processes are relatively slow with respect to dissociation of the complex that initiated them. Protein-ligand complex life span depends on the first-order rate constant for the dissociation of the complex, K(off) , but this constant and its implications are generally not treated in textbooks. This report presents a brief discussion and some examples useful for teaching the importance of time in ligand binding by macromolecules in the context of a general biochemistry course.