Residue centrality, functionally important residues, and active site shape: Analysis of enzyme and non-enzyme families

Antonio Del Sol*, Hirotomo Fujihashi, Dolors Amoros, Ruth Nussinov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The representation of protein structures as small-world networks facilitates the search for topological determinants, which may relate to functionally important residues. Here, we aimed to investigate the performance of residue centrality, viewed as a family fold characteristic, in identifying functionally important residues in protein families. Our study is based on 46 families, including 29 enzyme and 17 nonenzyme families. A total of 80% of these central positions corresponded to active site residues or residues in direct contact with these sites. For enzyme families, this percentage increased to 91%, while for nonenzyme families the percentage decreased substantially to 48%. A total of 70% of these central positions are located in catalytic sites in the enzyme families, 64% are in hetero-atom binding sites in those families binding hetero-atoms, and only 16% belong to protein-protein interfaces in families with protein-protein interaction data. These differences reflect the active site shape: enzyme active sites locate in surface clefts, hetero-atom binding residues are in deep cavities, while protein-protein interactions involve a more planar configuration. On the other hand, not all surface cavities or clefts are comprised of central residues. Thus, closeness centrality identifies functionally important residues in enzymes. While here we focus on binding sites, we expect to identify key residues for the integration and transmission of the information to the rest of the protein, reflecting the relationship between fold and function. Residue centrality is more conserved than the protein sequence, emphasizing the robustness of protein structures. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2120-2128
Number of pages9
JournalProtein Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2006


  • Active sites
  • Characteristic path length
  • Closeness centrality
  • Conserved central positions
  • Network


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