Insights into the Function of the Unstructured N-Terminal Domain of Proteins 4.1R and 4.1G in Erythropoiesis

Int J Cell Biol. 2011;2011:943272. doi: 10.1155/2011/943272. Epub 2011 Aug 28.


Membrane skeletal protein 4.1R is the prototypical member of a family of four highly paralogous proteins that include 4.1G, 4.1N, and 4.1B. Two isoforms of 4.1R (4.1R(135) and 4.1R(80)), as well as 4.1G, are expressed in erythroblasts during terminal differentiation, but only 4.1R(80) is present in mature erythrocytes. One goal in the field is to better understand the complex regulation of cell type and isoform-specific expression of 4.1 proteins. To start answering these questions, we are studying in depth the important functions of 4.1 proteins in the organization and function of the membrane skeleton in erythrocytes. We have previously reported that the binding profiles of 4.1R(80) and 4.1R(135) to membrane proteins and calmodulin are very different despite the similar structure of the membrane-binding domain of 4.1G and 4.1R(135). We have accumulated evidence for those differences being caused by the N-terminal 209 amino acids headpiece region (HP). Interestingly, the HP region is an unstructured domain. Here we present an overview of the differences and similarities between 4.1 isoforms and paralogs. We also discuss the biological significance of unstructured domains.