The latest issue of Science features a paper by Yu et al. in which they report the results of a comprehensive yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) screen for interactions between budding yeast proteins. Just a few months earlier, Science published a paper by Tarassov et al. that describes a similar screen performed using a novel protein fragment complementation assay (PCA). Peer Bork and I wrote a Perspectives piece on these two papers, showing that the different assays for detecting protein interactions are complementary in the sense that they capture interactions for different subsets of the proteome. For example, PCA detects many interactions for membrane proteins whereas Y2H detects many interactions for nuclear proteins.
As part of writing the Perspectives piece, I performed numerous analyses that were not included in the final publication, because they were either too technical for a broad audience, not interesting enough to spend valuable space on, or would involve additional figures. Thankfully, my blog imposes no limitations on the number of words or figures (nor is it required that the content is interesting, although that is desirable).
The comparison included, in addition to the two interactomes introduced above, a third interactome that consists of all the high-confidence interactions identified by Gavin et al. and Krogan et al. using the tandem affinity purification (TAP) method. Also included in the comparison (but not in the Perspectives piece) was the literature-curated (LC) set of interactions published by Reguly et al. in 2006.
The Venn diagram below shows the overlap of the four interactomes in terms of proteins, that is a protein is considered to belong to an interactome if the method in question suggested at least one interaction partner:
The numbers outside the ellipses specify the total number of proteins for which a given method identified interactions. Notably, the PCA, Y2H, and TAP interactomes cover only approximately one sixth, one third, and half of the yeast proteome, respectively, despite all three assays having been tested on all yeast ORFs. This suggests that only a fraction of proteins can be targeted with a given assay.
A second way to compare the four interactomes is to count their overlaps in terms of pairs of interacting proteins. To provide additional detail, I distinguished between interactions that are not found in a given interactome because one or both proteins are not covered by the interactome in question (dashed lines in the diagrams), and interactions that were not found despite both proteins being covered (full lines in the diagrams). The Venn diagrams below show all twelve pairwise comparisions of the four interactomes:
As expected, the largest overlap is observed when comparing the two largest interactomes (LC and TAP), whereas the smallest overlap is observed when comparing the smallest interactomes (PCA and Y2H). Even if taking into account the differences in terms of protein coverage, however, the the overlaps between the interactomes leave a lot to be desired.
There are several reasons for the poor overlap at the level of pairwise interactions. One is that false positive interactions are unlikely to be reproducible by a different assay. A second is that the assays measure fundamentally different types of interactions: PCA and Y2H measure direct binary interactions between proteins, whereas TAP measures co-complex interactions, that is whether two proteins are part of the same complex or not. This is illustrated in the figure below, which shows the binary and co-complex networks for three different scenarios:
The two types of assays have different strengths and weaknesses. Binary interaction assays can in principle distinguish between the two first complexes, which only differ in that the subunits B and C are in direct contact in first complex but not in the second. However, binary assays are not able to distinguish between the second and the third scenario, that is whether A, B, and C form a single complex (ABC) or two complexes (AB and AC). Conversely, data from co-complex assays are able to answer the latter question but are unable to distinguish between the two first scenarios. The different assays thus complement each other, not only because they are able to interrogate different subsets of the proteome, but also because they provide us with complementary information about the composition and topology of protein complexes.