Ligand Competition Curves as a Diagnostic Tool for Delineating the Nature of Site‐Site Interactions: Theory

Yoav I. Henis*, Alexander LEVITZKI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A few molecular models have been developed in recent years to explain the mechanism of cooperative ligand binding. The concerted model of Monod, Wyman and Changeux and the sequential model of Koshland, Némethy and Filmer were formulated to account for positively cooperative binding. The pre‐existent asymmetry model and the sequential model can account for negatively cooperative ligand binding. In most cases, however, it is virtually impossible to deduce the molecular mechanism of ligand binding solely from the shape of the binding isotherm. In the present study we suggest a new strategy for delineating the molecular mechanism responsible for cooperative ligand binding from binding isotherms. In this approach one examines the effect of one ligand on the cooperativity observed in the binding of another ligand, where the two ligands compete for the same set of binding sites. It is demonstrated that the cooperativity of ligand binding can be modulated when a competitive ligdnd is present in the protein‐ligand binding mixture. A general mathematical formulation of this modulation is presented in thermodynamic terms, using model‐ independent parameters. The relation between the Hill coefficient at 50% ligand saturation with respect to ligand X in the absence, h(x), and in the presence of a competing ligand Z, h(x,z), is expressed in terms of the thermodynamic parameters characterizing the binding of the two ligands. Then the relationship between h(x) and h(x,z), in terms of the molecular parameters of the different allosteric models, is explored. This analysis reveals that the different allosteric models predict different relationships between h(x,z) and h(x). These differences are especially focused when Z binds non‐cooperatively. Thus, it becomes possible, on the basis of ligand binding experiments alone, to decide which of the allosteric models best fits a set of experimental data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-466
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1979
Externally publishedYes


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