Trp/Met/Phe hot spots in protein-protein interactions: Potential targets in drug design

Buyong Ma*, Ruth Nussinov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Protein-protein interactions are crucial to biological functions. Consequently, designing drugs to control protein-protein interactions is receiving increasing attention. Protein structures can associate in different ways. Analysis of the structures of protein-protein complexes using amino acid sequence order-independent multiple structural comparison algorithms, led us to conclude that the amino acids Trp, Met, and Phe are important for protein-protein interactions. Hence, in principle, drug design targeting the Trp/Met/Phe should modulate protein functions effectively. Several clusters of the Trp/Met/Phe residues are involved in the p53 protein-protein interactions. The best example in this regard is the Phe19/Trp23 of p53, which binds to transcriptional factors and to the MDM2 protein. In the HIV related proteins, the Trp/Met/Phe residues have roles in the dimerization of the transcriptase (p51/p66) and in cell-fusion processes, including the gp120-CD4 interaction and the gp41 six-helix bundle formation. Trp/Met/Phe residues are preferred in 'normal' functional protein-protein interactions and they also appear to be exploited in amyloid formation, especially the phenylalanine. Comparison of binding propensity and amyloid formation preference reveals that apart from Lysine, Isoleucine is the least structurally conserved in protein binding sites and has a high propensity in sequences forming amyloids. Thus, this may suggest that nature tends to avoid Ile conservation in protein-protein interaction to avoid amyloid formation. In this regards, Trp/Met/Phe as well as Ile may be targeted to modulate protein-protein interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)999-1005
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Topics in Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Amyloid
  • Drug-design
  • Hot spot
  • Protein binding site
  • Protein-protein interactions


Dive into the research topics of 'Trp/Met/Phe hot spots in protein-protein interactions: Potential targets in drug design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this