Prediction of protein-protein interaction sites using electrostatic desolvation profiles

Sébastien Fiorucci, Martin Zacharias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Protein-protein complex formation involves removal of waterfrom the interface region. Surface regions with a small free energy penalty for water removal or desolvation may correspond to preferred interaction sites. A method to calculate the electrostatic free energy of placing a neutral low-dielectric probe at various protein surface positions has been designed and applied to characterize putative interaction sites. Based on solutions of the finite-difference Poisson equation, this method also Includes long-range electrostatic contributions and the protein solvent boundary shape in contrast to accessible-surfacearea-based solvation energies. Calculations on a large set of proteins indicate that in many cases (>90%), the known binding site overlaps with one of the six regions of lowest electrostatic desolvation penalty (overlap with the lowest desolvation region for 48% of proteins). Since the onset of electrostatic desolvation occurs even before direct protein-protein contact formation, it may help guide proteins toward the binding region in the final stage of complex formation. It is interesting that the probe desolvation properties associated with residue types were found to depend to some degree on whether the residue was outside of or part of a binding site. The probe desolvation penalty was on average smaller if the residue was part of a binding site compared to other surface locations. Applications to several antigen-antibody complexes demonstrated that the approach might be useful not only to predict protein interaction sites in general but to map potential antigenic epitopes on protein surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1921-1930
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - 5 May 2010
Externally publishedYes


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