Opportunities for protein interaction network-guided cellular engineering



As we move further into the postgenomics age where the mountain of systems biology-generated data keeps growing, as does the number of genomes that have been sequenced, we have the exciting opportunity to understand more deeply the biology of important systems, those that are amenable to genetic manipulation and metabolic engineering. This is, of course, if we can make ‘head or tail’ of what we have measured and use this for robust predictions. The use of modern mass spectrometry tools has greatly facilitated our understanding of which proteins are present in a particular phenotype, their relative and absolute abundances and their state of modifications. Coupled with modern bioinformatics and systems biology modelling tools, this has the opportunity of not just providing information and understanding but also to provide targets for engineering and suggest new genetic/metabolic designs. Cellular engineering, whether it be via metabolic engineering, synthetic biology or a combination of both approaches, offers exciting potential for biotechnological exploitation in fields as diverse as medicine and energy as well as fine and bulk chemicals production. At the heart of such effective designs, proteins' interactions with other proteins or with DNA will become increasingly important. In this work, we examine the work done until now in protein–protein interactions and how this network knowledge can be used to inform ambitious cellular engineering strategies. Some examples demonstrating small molecules/biofuels and biopharmaceuticals applications are presented. © 2012 IUBMB Life, 65(1):17–27, 2013