Knot localization in proteins

Biochem Soc Trans. 2013 Apr;41(2):538-41. doi: 10.1042/BST20120329.


The backbones of proteins form linear chains. In the case of some proteins, these chains can be characterized as forming linear open knots. The knot type of the full chain reveals only limited information about the entanglement of the chain since, for example, subchains of an unknotted protein can form knots and subchains of a knotted protein can form different types of knots than the entire protein. To understand fully the entanglement within the backbone of a given protein, a complete analysis of the knotting within all of the subchains of that protein is necessary. In the present article, we review efforts to characterize the full knotting complexity within individual proteins and present a matrix that conveys information about various aspects of protein knotting. For a given protein, this matrix identifies the precise localization of knotted regions and shows the knot types formed by all subchains. The pattern in the matrix can be considered as a knotting fingerprint of that protein. We observe that knotting fingerprints of distantly related knotted proteins are strongly conserved during evolution and discuss how some characteristic motifs in the knotting fingerprints are related to the structure of the knotted regions and their possible biological role.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / chemistry*


  • Proteins