ACS Chem Biol 2012 Aug 23;7(8):1311-20. Epub 2012 Jul 23.
Program in Chemical Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
Multiprotein complexes such as the transcriptional machinery, signaling hubs, and protein folding machines are typically composed of at least one enzyme combined with multiple non-enzymes. Often the components of these complexes are incorporated in a combinatorial manner, in which the ultimate composition of the system helps dictate the type, location, or duration of cellular activities. Although drugs and chemical probes have traditionally targeted the enzyme components, emerging strategies call for controlling the function of protein complexes by modulation of protein-protein interactions (PPIs). However, the challenges of targeting PPIs have been well documented, and the diversity of PPIs makes a "one-size-fits-all" solution highly unlikely. These hurdles are particularly daunting for PPIs that encompass large buried surface areas and those with weak affinities. In this Review, we discuss lessons from natural systems, in which allostery and other mechanisms are used to overcome the challenge of regulating the most difficult PPIs. These systems may provide a blueprint for identifying small molecules that target challenging PPIs and affecting molecular decision-making within multiprotein systems.