Journal of Biomolecular NMR

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 37–44 | Cite as

A simple and reliable approach to docking protein–protein complexes from very sparse NOE-derived intermolecular distance restraints

  • Chun Tang
  • G. Marius Clore


A simple and reliable approach for docking protein–protein complexes from very sparse NOE-derived intermolecular distance restraints (as few as three from a single point) in combination with a novel representation for an attractive potential between mapped interaction surfaces is described. Unambiguous assignments of very sparse intermolecular NOEs are obtained using a reverse labeling strategy in which one the components is fully deuterated with the exception of selective protonation of the δ-methyl groups of isoleucine, while the other component is uniformly 13C-labeled. This labeling strategy can be readily extended to selective protonation of Ala, Leu, Val or Met. The attractive potential is described by a ‘reduced’ radius of gyration potential applied specifically to a subset of interfacial residues (those with an accessible surface area  ≥ 50% in the free proteins) that have been delineated by chemical shift perturbation. Docking is achieved by rigid body minimization on the basis of a target function comprising the sparse NOE distance restraints, a van der Waals repulsion potential and the ‘reduced’ radius of gyration potential. The method is demonstrated for two protein–protein complexes (EIN–HPr and IIAGlc–HPr) from the bacterial phosphotransferase system. In both cases, starting from 100 different random orientations of the X-ray structures of the free proteins, 100% convergence is achieved to a single cluster (with near identical atomic positions) with an overall backbone accuracy of ~2 Å. The approach described is not limited to NMR, since interfaces can also be mapped by alanine scanning mutagenesis, and sparse intermolecular distance restraints can be derived from double cycle mutagenesis, cross-linking combined with mass spectrometry, or fluorescence energy transfer.


protein docking sparse NOE data reverse isotope labeling deuteration ‘reduced’ radius of gyration rigid body minimization 


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This work was supported by the intramural program of NIH, NIDDK and the AIDS Targeted Antiviral Program of the Office of the Director of NIH (to G.M.C.).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Chemical Physics, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney DiseasesNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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