Thermodynamic Basis for Promiscuity and Selectivity in Protein−Protein Interactions: PDZ Domains, a Case Study
Like other protein?protein interaction domains, PDZ domains are involved in many key cellular processes. These processes often require that specific multiprotein complexes be assembled, a task that PDZ domains accomplish by binding to specific peptide motifs in target proteins. However, a growing number of experimental studies show that PDZ domains (like other protein?protein interaction domains) can engage in a variety of interactions and bind distinct peptide motifs. Such promiscuity in ligand recognition raises intriguing questions about the molecular and thermodynamic mechanisms that can sustain it. To identify possible sources of promiscuity and selectivity underlying PDZ domain interactions, we performed molecular dynamics simulations of 20 to 25 ns on a set of 12 different PDZ domain complexes (for the proteins PSD-95, Syntenin, Erbin, GRIP, NHERF, Inad, Dishevelled, and Shank). The electrostatic, nonpolar, and configurational entropy binding contributions were evaluated using the MM/PBSA method combined with a quasi-harmonic analysis. The results revealed that PDZ domain interactions are characterized by overwhelmingly favorable nonpolar contributions and almost negligible electrostatic components, a mix that may readily sustain promiscuity. In addition, despite the structural similarity in fold and in recognition modes, the entropic and other dynamical aspects of binding were remarkably variable not only across PDZ domains but also for the same PDZ domain bound to distinct ligands. This variability suggests that entropic and dynamical components can play a role in determining selectivity either of PDZ domain interactions with peptide ligands or of PDZ domain complexes with downstream effectors.