Rewiring of PDZ domain-ligand interaction network contributed to eukaryotic evolution

PLoS Genet. 2012 Feb;8(2):e1002510. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002510. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


PDZ domain-mediated interactions have greatly expanded during metazoan evolution, becoming important for controlling signal flow via the assembly of multiple signaling components. The evolutionary history of PDZ domain-mediated interactions has never been explored at the molecular level. It is of great interest to understand how PDZ domain-ligand interactions emerged and how they become rewired during evolution. Here, we constructed the first human PDZ domain-ligand interaction network (PDZNet) together with binding motif sequences and interaction strengths of ligands. PDZNet includes 1,213 interactions between 97 human PDZ proteins and 591 ligands that connect most PDZ protein-mediated interactions (98%) in a large single network via shared ligands. We examined the rewiring of PDZ domain-ligand interactions throughout eukaryotic evolution by tracing changes in the C-terminal binding motif sequences of the PDZ ligands. We found that interaction rewiring by sequence mutation frequently occurred throughout evolution, largely contributing to the growth of PDZNet. The rewiring of PDZ domain-ligand interactions provided an effective means of functional innovations in nervous system development. Our findings provide empirical evidence for a network evolution model that highlights the rewiring of interactions as a mechanism for the development of new protein functions. PDZNet will be a valuable resource to further characterize the organization of the PDZ domain-mediated signaling proteome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Databases, Protein*
  • Disease / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • PDZ Domains*
  • Protein Binding
  • Proteins
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • Ligands
  • Proteins