Cation–π, amino–π, π–π, and H-bond interactions stabilize antigen–antibody interfaces

Authors

  • Georgios A. Dalkas,

    1. Department of BioModeling, BioInformatics & BioProcesses, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
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  • Fabian Teheux,

    1. Department of BioModeling, BioInformatics & BioProcesses, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
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  • Jean Marc Kwasigroch,

    1. Department of BioModeling, BioInformatics & BioProcesses, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
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  • Marianne Rooman

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of BioModeling, BioInformatics & BioProcesses, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
    • Correspondence to: M. Rooman, Department of BioModeling, BioInformatics & BioProcesses, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 50 Roosevelt Ave, CP 165/61, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: mrooman@ulb.ac.be or http://babylone.ulb.ac.be

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  • Marianne Rooman is Research Director at the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS).

ABSTRACT

The identification of immunogenic regions on the surface of antigens, which are able to stimulate an immune response, is a major challenge for the design of new vaccines. Computational immunology aims at predicting such regions—in particular B-cell epitopes—but is far from being reliably applicable on a large scale. To gain understanding into the factors that contribute to the antigen–antibody affinity and specificity, we perform a detailed analysis of the amino acid composition and secondary structure of antigen and antibody surfaces, and of the interactions that stabilize the complexes, in comparison with the composition and interactions observed in other heterodimeric protein interfaces. We make a distinction between linear and conformational B-cell epitopes, according to whether they consist of successive residues along the polypeptide chain or not. The antigen–antibody interfaces were shown to differ from other protein–protein interfaces by their smaller size, their secondary structure with less helices and more loops, and the interactions that stabilize them: more H-bond, cation–π, amino–π, and π–π interactions, and less hydrophobic packing; linear and conformational epitopes can clearly be distinguished. Often, chains of successive interactions, called cation/amino–π and π–π chains, are formed. The amino acid composition differs significantly between the interfaces: antigen–antibody interfaces are less aliphatic and more charged, polar and aromatic than other heterodimeric protein interfaces. Moreover, paratopes and epitopes—albeit to a lesser extent—have amino acid compositions that are distinct from general protein surfaces. This specificity holds promise for improving B-cell epitope prediction. Proteins 2014; 82:1734–1746. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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