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Characterizing the consensus residue specificity and surface of Bcl-2 binding to BH3 ligands using the knob-socket model


Tsai, Jerry et al. (2023), Characterizing the consensus residue specificity and surface of Bcl-2 binding to BH3 ligands using the knob-socket model, Dryad, Dataset,


Cancer cells bypass cell death by changing the expression of the BCL-2 family of proteins, which are apoptotic pathway regulators. Upregulation of pro-survival BCL-2 proteins or downregulation of cell death effectors BAX and BAK interferes with the initiation of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. In normal cells, apoptosis can occur through pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins interacting and inhibiting pro-survival BCL-2 proteins. When cancer cells over-express pro-survival BCL-2 proteins, a potential remedy is the sequestration of these pro-survival proteins through a class of anti-cancer drugs called BH3 mimetics that bind in the hydrophobic groove of pro-survival BCL-2 proteins. To improve the design of these BH3 mimetics, the packing interface between BH3 domain ligands and pro-survival BCL-2 proteins was analyzed using the Knob-Socket model to identify the amino acid residues responsible for interaction affinity and specificity. A Knob-Socket analysis organizes all the residues in a binding interface into simple 4 residue units: 3-residue sockets defining surfaces on a protein that pack a 4th residue knob from the other protein. In this way, the position and composition of the knobs packing into sockets across the BH3/BCL-2 interface can be classified. A Knob-Socket analysis of 19 BCL-2 protein and BH3 helix co-crystals reveal multiple conserved binding patterns across protein paralogs. Conserved knob residues such as a Gly, Leu, Ala and Glu most likely define binding specificity in the BH3/BCL-2 interface, whereas other residues such as Asp, Asn, and Val are important for forming surface sockets that bind these knobs. These findings can be used to inform the design of BH3 mimetics that are specific to pro-survival BCL-2 proteins for cancer therapeutics.


Protein structure files were obtained from the Protein Data Bank. These files were cleaned for a single domain with a ligand as well as completeness. The files were then processed throught the Knob-Socket Analysis to produce the data files.