eLife Sciences Publications, eLife, (4)
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Almost all critical functions in cells rely on specific protein–protein interactions. Understanding these is therefore crucial in the investigation of biological systems. Despite all past efforts, we still lack a thorough understanding of the energetics of association of proteins. Here, we introduce a new and simple approach to predict binding affinity based on functional and structural features of the biological system, namely the network of interfacial contacts. We assess its performance against a protein–protein binding affinity benchmark and show that both experimental methods used for affinity measurements and conformational changes have a strong impact on prediction accuracy. Using a subset of complexes with reliable experimental binding affinities and combining our contacts and contact-types-based model with recent observations on the role of the non-interacting surface in protein–protein interactions, we reach a high prediction accuracy for such a diverse dataset outperforming all other tested methods.