Identifying direct contacts between protein complex subunits from their conditional dependence in proteomics datasets

Kevin Drew, Christian L. Müller, Richard Bonneau, Edward M. Marcotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Determining the three dimensional arrangement of proteins in a complex is highly beneficial for uncovering mechanistic function and interpreting genetic variation in coding genes comprising protein complexes. There are several methods for determining co-complex interactions between proteins, among them co-fractionation / mass spectrometry (CF-MS), but it remains difficult to identify directly contacting subunits within a multi-protein complex. Correlation analysis of CF-MS profiles shows promise in detecting protein complexes as a whole but is limited in its ability to infer direct physical contacts among proteins in sub-complexes. To identify direct protein-protein contacts within human protein complexes we learn a sparse conditional dependency graph from approximately 3,000 CF-MS experiments on human cell lines. We show substantial performance gains in estimating direct interactions compared to correlation analysis on a benchmark of large protein complexes with solved three-dimensional structures. We demonstrate the method’s value in determining the three dimensional arrangement of proteins by making predictions for complexes without known structure (the exocyst and tRNA multi-synthetase complex) and by establishing evidence for the structural position of a recently discovered component of the core human EKC/KEOPS complex, GON7/C14ORF142, providing a more complete 3D model of the complex. Direct contact prediction provides easily calculable additional structural information for large-scale protein complex mapping studies and should be broadly applicable across organisms as more CF-MS datasets become available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1005625
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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