The complexity of living systems exceeds everything else studied by natural sciences. Sophisticated networks of intimately intertwined signaling pathways coordinate cellular functions. Clear understanding how the integration of multiple inputs produces coherent behavior is one of the major challenges of cell biology. Integration via perfectly timed highly regulated protein-protein interactions and precise targeting of the "output" proteins to particular substrates is emerging as a common theme of signaling regulation. This often involves specialized scaffolding proteins, whose key function is to ensure that correct partners come together in an appropriate place at the right time. Defective or faulty signaling underlies many congenital and acquired human disorders. Several pioneering studies showed that ectopic expression of existing proteins or their elements can restore functions destroyed by mutations or normalize the signaling pushed out of balance by disease and/or current small molecule-based therapy. Several recent studies show that proteins with new functional modalities can be generated by mixing and matching existing domains, or via functional recalibration and fine-tuning of existing proteins by precisely targeted mutations. Using arrestins as an example, we describe how manipulation of individual functions yields signaling-biased proteins. Creative protein redesign generates novel tools valuable for unraveling the intricacies of cell biology. Engineered proteins with specific functional changes also have huge therapeutic potential in disorders associated with inherited or acquired signaling errors.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.