Physical interactions between proteins are essential for most biological processes governing life. However, the molecular determinants of such interactions have been challenging to understand, even as genomic, proteomic, and structural data grows. This knowledge gap has been a major obstacle for the comprehensive understanding of cellular protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks and for the de novo design of protein binders that are crucial for synthetic biology and translational applications. We exploit a geometric deep learning framework operating on protein surfaces that generates fingerprints to describe geometric and chemical features critical to drive PPIs. We hypothesized these fingerprints capture the key aspects of molecular recognition that represent a new paradigm in the computational design of novel protein interactions. As a proof-of-principle, we computationally designed four de novo protein binders to engage three protein targets: SARS-CoV-2 spike, PD-1, and PD-L1. The designs bound the target sites with nanomolar affinity upon experimental optimization, structural and mutational characterization showed highly accurate predictions. Overall, our surface-centric approach captures the physical and chemical determinants of molecular recognition, enabling a novel approach for the de novo design of protein interactions and, more broadly, of artificial proteins with function.
Gainza, P.; Wehrle, S.; Van Hall-Beauvais, A.; Marchand, A.; Scheck, A.; Harteveld, Z.; Ni, D.; Tan, S.; Sverrisson, F.; Goverde, C.; Turelli, P.; Raclot, C.; Teslenko, A.; Pacesa, M.; Rosset, S.; Georgeon, S.; Marsden, J.; Petruzzella, A.; Liu, K.; Xu, Z.; Chai, Y.; Han, P.; Gao, G. F.; Oricchio, E.; Fierz, B.; Trono, D.; Stahlberg, H.; Bronstein, M.; Correia, B. E.