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L. Ridgway Scott : Digital biology: protein-ligand interactions

The digital nature of biology is crucial to its functioning as an information system, as well in building hierarchical components in a repeatable way. We explain how protein systems can function as discrete components, despite the importance of non-specific forces due to the hydrophobic effect. That is, we address the question of why proteins bind to ligands predictably and not in a continuous distribution of places, the way grease forms into blobs. We will give a detailed description of how data mining in the PDB can reveal how proteins interact. We highlight the role of the hydrophobic effect, but we see that it works inversely to the usual concept of hydrophobic interaction. Our work suggests the need for a more accurate model of the dielectric effect in the vicinity of a protein surface, and we discuss some advances in this direction. Our research also provides an understanding of how molecular recognition and signaling can evolve. We give an example of the use of our ideas in drug design.

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