Do Intrinsically Disordered Proteins Possess High Specificity in Protein-Protein Interactions?
Specific protein-protein interactions are critical to cellular function. Structural flexibility and disorder-to-order transitions upon binding enable intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) to overcome steric restrictions and form complementary binding interfaces, and thus, IDPs are widely considered to have high specificity and low affinity for molecular recognition. However, flexibility may also enable IDPs to form complementary binding interfaces with misbinding partners, resulting in a great number of nonspecific interactions. Consequently, it is questionable whether IDPs really possess high specificity. In this work, we investigated this question from a thermodynamic viewpoint. We collected mutant thermodynamic data for 35 ordered protein complexes and 43 disordered protein complexes. We found that the enthalpy-entropy compensation for disordered protein complexes was more complete than that for ordered protein complexes. We further simulated the binding processes of ordered and disordered protein complexes under mutations. Simulation data confirmed the observation of experimental data analyses and further revealed that disordered protein complexes possessed smaller changes in binding free energy than ordered protein complexes under the same mutation perturbations. Therefore, interactions of IDPs are more malleable than those of ordered proteins due to their structural flexibility in the complex. Our results provide new clues for exploring the relationship between protein flexibility, adaptability, and specificity. Copyright © 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.