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Sci. Signal., 13 March 2012
Vol. 5, Issue 215, p. rs1
[DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2002515]


Proteome-Wide Discovery of Evolutionary Conserved Sequences in Disordered Regions

Alex N. Nguyen Ba1,2, Brian J. Yeh3, Dewald van Dyk4,5, Alan R. Davidson6, Brenda J. Andrews4,5, Eric L. Weiss3, and Alan M. Moses1,2,7,8*

1 Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B2, Canada.
2 Centre for the Analysis of Genome Evolution and Function, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B2, Canada.
3 Department of Molecular Biosciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
4 The Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M3S 3E1, Canada.
5 Banting and Best Department of Medical Research, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1L6, Canada.
6 Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.
7 Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2E4, Canada.
8 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B2, Canada.

Abstract: At least 30% of human proteins are thought to contain intrinsically disordered regions, which lack stable structural conformation. Despite lacking enzymatic functions and having few protein domains, disordered regions are functionally important for protein regulation and contain short linear motifs (short peptide sequences involved in protein-protein interactions), but in most disordered regions, the functional amino acid residues remain unknown. We searched for evolutionarily conserved sequences within disordered regions according to the hypothesis that conservation would indicate functional residues. Using a phylogenetic hidden Markov model (phylo-HMM), we made accurate, specific predictions of functional elements in disordered regions even when these elements are only two or three amino acids long. Among the conserved sequences that we identified were previously known and newly identified short linear motifs, and we experimentally verified key examples, including a motif that may mediate interaction between protein kinase Cbk1 and its substrates. We also observed that hub proteins, which interact with many partners in a protein interaction network, are highly enriched in these conserved sequences. Our analysis enabled the systematic identification of the functional residues in disordered regions and suggested that at least 5% of amino acids in disordered regions are important for function.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: alan.moses{at}

Citation: A. N. Nguyen Ba, B. J. Yeh, D. van Dyk, A. R. Davidson, B. J. Andrews, E. L. Weiss, A. M. Moses, Proteome-Wide Discovery of Evolutionary Conserved Sequences in Disordered Regions. Sci. Signal. 5, rs1 (2012).

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