Systematic Identification of Protein-Metabolite Interactions in Complex Metabolite Mixtures by Ligand-Detected Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

Biochemistry. 2016 May 10;55(18):2590-600. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.5b01291. Epub 2016 Apr 25.


Protein-metabolite interactions play a vital role in the regulation of numerous cellular processes. Consequently, identifying such interactions is a key prerequisite for understanding cellular regulation. However, the noncovalent nature of the binding between proteins and metabolites has so far hampered the development of methods for systematically mapping protein-metabolite interactions. The few available, largely mass spectrometry-based, approaches are restricted to specific metabolite classes, such as lipids. In this study, we address this issue and show the potential of ligand-detected nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, which is routinely used in drug development, to systematically identify protein-metabolite interactions. As a proof of concept, we selected four well-characterized bacterial and mammalian proteins (AroG, Eno, PfkA, and bovine serum albumin) and identified metabolite binders in complex mixes of up to 33 metabolites. Ligand-detected NMR captured all of the reported protein-metabolite interactions, spanning a full range of physiologically relevant Kd values (low micromolar to low millimolar). We also detected a number of novel interactions, such as promiscuous binding of the negatively charged metabolites citrate, AMP, and ATP, as well as binding of aromatic amino acids to AroG protein. Using in vitro enzyme activity assays, we assessed the functional relevance of these novel interactions in the case of AroG and show that l-tryptophan, l-tyrosine, and l-histidine act as novel inhibitors of AroG activity. Thus, we conclude that ligand-detected NMR is suitable for the systematic identification of functionally relevant protein-metabolite interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Monophosphate / chemistry*
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / chemistry*
  • Amino Acids, Aromatic / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular / methods*
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine / chemistry*


  • Amino Acids, Aromatic
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine
  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate