To facilitate investigations of protein–protein interactions (PPIs), we developed a novel platform for quantitative mapping of protein binding specificity landscapes, which combines the multi-target screening of a mutagenesis library into high- and low-affinity populations with sophisticated next-generation sequencing analysis. Importantly, this method generates accurate models to predict affinity and specificity values for any mutation within a protein complex, and requires only a few experimental binding affinity measurements using purified proteins for calibration. We demonstrated the utility of the approach by mapping quantitative landscapes for interactions between the N-terminal domain of the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 2 (N-TIMP2) and three matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) having homologous structures but different affinities (MMP-1, MMP-3, and MMP-14). The binding landscapes for N-TIMP2/MMP-1 and N-TIMP2/MMP-3 showed the PPIs to be almost fully optimized, with most single mutations giving a loss of affinity. In contrast, the non-optimized PPI for N-TIMP2/MMP-14 was reflected in a wide range of binding affinities, where single mutations exhibited a far more attenuated effect on the PPI. Our new platform reliably and comprehensively identified not only hot- and cold-spot residues, but also specificity-switch mutations that shape target affinity and specificity. Thus, our approach provides a methodology giving an unprecedentedly rich quantitative analysis of the binding specificity landscape, which will broaden the understanding of the mechanisms and evolutionary origins of specific PPIs and facilitate the rational design of specific inhibitors for structurally similar target proteins.

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