Background:Protein domains are evolutionarily conserved building blocks for protein structure and function, which are conventionally identified based on protein sequence or structure similarity. Small molecule binding domains are of great importance for the recognition of small molecules in biological systems and drug development. Many small molecules, including drugs, have been increasingly identified to bind to multiple targets, leading to promiscuous interactions with protein domains. Thus, a large scale characterization of the protein domains and their associations with respect to small molecule binding is of particular interest to system biology research, drug target identification, as well as drug repurposing.
Methods: We compiled a collection of 13,822 physical interactions of small molecules and protein domains derived from the Protein Data Bank (PDB) structures. Based on the chemical similarity of these small molecules, we characterized pairwise associations of the protein domains and further investigated their global associations from a network point of view.
Results: We found that protein domains, despite lack of similarity in sequence and structure, were comprehensively associated through binding the same or similar small-molecule ligands. Moreover, we identified modules in the domain network that consisted of closely related protein domains by sharing similar biochemical mechanisms, being involved in relevant biological pathways, or being regulated by the same cognate cofactors.
Conclusions: A novel protein domain relationship was identified in the context of small-molecule binding, which is complementary to those identified by traditional sequence-based or structure-based approaches. The protein domain network constructed in the present study provides a novel perspective for chemogenomic study and network pharmacology, as well as target identification for drug repurposing.
Keywords: Protein domain, drug repurposing, domain network, promiscuous drug, drug target identification