PloS one

A measure of the promiscuity of proteins and characteristics of residues in the vicinity of the catalytic site that regulate promiscuity.

PMID 22359655


Promiscuity, the basis for the evolution of new functions through 'tinkering' of residues in the vicinity of the catalytic site, is yet to be quantitatively defined. We present a computational method Promiscuity Indices Estimator (PROMISE)--based on signatures derived from the spatial and electrostatic properties of the catalytic residues, to estimate the promiscuity (PromIndex) of proteins with known active site residues and 3D structure. PromIndex reflects the number of different active site signatures that have congruent matches in close proximity of its native catalytic site, the quality of the matches and difference in the enzymatic activity. Promiscuity in proteins is observed to follow a lognormal distribution (μ = 0.28, σ = 1.1 reduced chi-square = 3.0E-5). The PROMISE predicted promiscuous functions in any protein can serve as the starting point for directed evolution experiments. PROMISE ranks carboxypeptidase A and ribonuclease A amongst the more promiscuous proteins. We have also investigated the properties of the residues in the vicinity of the catalytic site that regulates its promiscuity. Linear regression establishes a weak correlation (R(2)∼0.1) between certain properties of the residues (charge, polar, etc) in the neighborhood of the catalytic residues and PromIndex. A stronger relationship states that most proteins with high promiscuity have high percentages of charged and polar residues within a radius of 3 Å of the catalytic site, which is validated using one-tailed hypothesis tests (P-values∼0.05). Since it is known that these characteristics are key factors in catalysis, their relationship with the promiscuity index cross validates the methodology of PROMISE.