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PLoS Comput Biol. 2013 Apr;9(4):e1003030. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003030. Epub 2013 Apr 25.

Distinct types of disorder in the human proteome: functional implications for alternative splicing.

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The Donnelly Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Intrinsically disordered regions have been associated with various cellular processes and are implicated in several human diseases, but their exact roles remain unclear. We previously defined two classes of conserved disordered regions in budding yeast, referred to as "flexible" and "constrained" conserved disorder. In flexible disorder, the property of disorder has been positionally conserved during evolution, whereas in constrained disorder, both the amino acid sequence and the property of disorder have been conserved. Here, we show that flexible and constrained disorder are widespread in the human proteome, and are particularly common in proteins with regulatory functions. Both classes of disordered sequences are highly enriched in regions of proteins that undergo tissue-specific (TS) alternative splicing (AS), but not in regions of proteins that undergo general (i.e., not tissue-regulated) AS. Flexible disorder is more highly enriched in TS alternative exons, whereas constrained disorder is more highly enriched in exons that flank TS alternative exons. These latter regions are also significantly more enriched in potential phosphosites and other short linear motifs associated with cell signaling. We further show that cancer driver mutations are significantly enriched in regions of proteins associated with TS and general AS. Collectively, our results point to distinct roles for TS alternative exons and flanking exons in the dynamic regulation of protein interaction networks in response to signaling activity, and they further suggest that alternatively spliced regions of proteins are often functionally altered by mutations responsible for cancer.

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