Unmasking Functional Motifs Within Disordered Regions of Proteins

Sci. Signal., 17 April 2012
Vol. 5, Issue 220, p. pe17
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003091

Unmasking Functional Motifs Within Disordered Regions of Proteins

  1. Rahul K. Das,
  2. Albert H. Mao, and
  3. Rohit V. Pappu*
  1. Department of Biomedical Engineering and Center for Biological Systems Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, Box 1097, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.
  1. *Corresponding author. E-mail: pappu{at}wustl.edu


Eukaryotic proteins often possess long stretches that fail to adopt well-defined, three-dimensional structures. These intrinsically disordered regions are associated with cell signaling through the enrichment of hub proteins of networks and as targets for posttranslational modifications. Although disordered regions are readily identified because of their distinct sequence characteristics, it is difficult to predict the functions associated with these regions. This is because disordered regions often house short (two- to five-residue) linear motifs that mediate intermolecular interactions. Predicting their function requires the ability to identify the functionally relevant motifs. If one assumes that functional motifs are highly conserved as compared to background sequence contexts, then a suitable comparative genomics approach proves to be powerful in unmasking functional motifs that are part of disordered regions. This approach has successfully identified known functional motifs and predicted a set of new motifs that might yield important insights regarding previously unknown functionalities for disordered regions. Given knowledge of highly conserved motifs, one can assess whether the rapidly changing sequence contexts are actuators of the functionalities of short linear motifs within disordered regions. This should have important implications for engineering and targeting hub proteins in signaling networks.


R. K. Das, A. H. Mao, and R. V. Pappu, Unmasking Functional Motifs Within Disordered Regions of Proteins. Sci. Signal. 5, pe17 (2012).

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