Proteins with neomorphic moonlighting functions in disease

IUBMB Life. 2011 Jul;63(7):489-94. doi: 10.1002/iub.504.


One gene can encode multiple protein functions because of RNA splice variants, gene fusions during evolution, promiscuous enzyme activities, and moonlighting protein functions. In addition to these types of multifunctional proteins, in which both functions are considered "normal" functions of a protein, some proteins have been described in which a mutation or conformational change imparts a second function on a protein that is not a "normal" function of the protein. We propose to call these new functions "neomorphic moonlighting functions". The most common examples of neomorphic moonlighting functions are due to conformational changes that impart novel protein-protein interactions resulting in the formation of protein aggregates in Alzheimers, Parkinsons disease, and the systemic amyloidoses. Other changes that can result in a neomorphic moonlighting function include a mutation in SMAD4 that causes the protein to bind to new promoters and thereby alter gene transcription patterns, mutations in two isocitrate dehydrogenase isoforms that impart a new catalytic activity, and mutations in dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase that activate a hidden protease activity. These neomorphic moonlighting functions were identified because of their connection to disease. In the cases described herein, the new functions cause cancers or severe neurological impairment, although in most cases the mechanism by which the new function leads to disease is unknown.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Mutation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism*


  • Proteins