Molecular and cellular approaches for the detection of protein–protein interactions: latest techniques and current limitations


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Homotypic and heterotypic protein interactions are crucial for all levels of cellular function, including architecture, regulation, metabolism, and signaling. Therefore, protein interaction maps represent essential components of post-genomic toolkits needed for understanding biological processes at a systems level. Over the past decade, a wide variety of methods have been developed to detect, analyze, and quantify protein interactions, including surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy, NMR, yeast two-hybrid screens, peptide tagging combined with mass spectrometry and fluorescence-based technologies. Fluorescence techniques range from co-localization of tags, which may be limited by the optical resolution of the microscope, to fluorescence resonance energy transfer-based methods that have molecular resolution and can also report on the dynamics and localization of the interactions within a cell. Proteins interact via highly evolved complementary surfaces with affinities that can vary over many orders of magnitude. Some of the techniques described in this review, such as surface plasmon resonance, provide detailed information on physical properties of these interactions, while others, such as two-hybrid techniques and mass spectrometry, are amenable to high-throughput analysis using robotics. In addition to providing an overview of these methods, this review emphasizes techniques that can be applied to determine interactions involving membrane proteins, including the split ubiquitin system and fluorescence-based technologies for characterizing hits obtained with high-throughput approaches. Mass spectrometry-based methods are covered by a review by Miernyk and Thelen (2008; this issue, pp. 597–609). In addition, we discuss the use of interaction data to construct interaction networks and as the basis for the exciting possibility of using to predict interaction surfaces.