Background: Few existing protein-protein interface design methods allow for extensive backbone rearrangements during the design process. There is also a dichotomy between redesign methods, which take advantage of the native interface, and de novo methods, which produce novel binders.
Methodology: Here, we propose a new method for designing novel protein reagents that combines advantages of redesign and de novo methods and allows for extensive backbone motion. This method requires a bound structure of a target and one of its natural binding partners. A key interaction in this interface, the anchor, is computationally grafted out of the partner and into a surface loop on the design scaffold. The design scaffold's surface is then redesigned with backbone flexibility to create a new binding partner for the target. Careful choice of a scaffold will bring experimentally desirable characteristics into the new complex. The use of an anchor both expedites the design process and ensures that binding proceeds against a known location on the target. The use of surface loops on the scaffold allows for flexible-backbone redesign to properly search conformational space.
Conclusions and significance: This protocol was implemented within the Rosetta3 software suite. To demonstrate and evaluate this protocol, we have developed a benchmarking set of structures from the PDB with loop-mediated interfaces. This protocol can recover the correct loop-mediated interface in 15 out of 16 tested structures, using only a single residue as an anchor.