Local and global anatomy of antibody-protein antigen recognition

Meryl Wang, David Zhu, Jianwei Zhu, Ruth Nussinov, Buyong Ma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deciphering antibody-protein antigen recognition is of fundamental and practical significance. We constructed an antibody structural dataset, partitioned it into human and murine subgroups, and compared it with nonantibody protein-protein complexes. We investigated the physicochemical properties of regions on and away from the antibody-antigen interfaces, including net charge, overall antibody charge distributions, and their potential role in antigen interaction. We observed that amino acid preference in antibody-protein antigen recognition is entropy driven, with residues having low side-chain entropy appearing to compensate for the high backbone entropy in interaction with protein antigens. Antibodies prefer charged and polar antigen residues and bridging water molecules. They also prefer positive net charge, presumably to promote interaction with negatively charged protein antigens, which are common in proteomes. Antibody-antigen interfaces have large percentages of Tyr, Ser, and Asp, but little Lys. Electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions in the Ag binding sites might be coupled with Fab domains through organized charge and residue distributions away from the binding interfaces. Here we describe some features of antibody-antigen interfaces and of Fab domains as compared with nonantibody protein-protein interactions. The distributions of interface residues in human and murine antibodies do not differ significantly. Overall, our results provide not only a local but also a global anatomy of antibody structures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2693
JournalJournal of Molecular Recognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


FundersFunder number
National Institutes of HealthHHSN261200800001E
National Cancer InstituteZIABC010440


    • allosteric regulation
    • antibody-antigen recognition
    • binding epitopes
    • mAb drugs
    • protein-protein interaction


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