Evolution of intrinsic disorder in eukaryotic proteins

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2017 Sep;74(17):3163-3174. doi: 10.1007/s00018-017-2559-0. Epub 2017 Jun 8.


Conformational flexibility conferred though regions of intrinsic structural disorder allows proteins to behave as dynamic molecules. While it is well-known that intrinsically disordered regions can undergo disorder-to-order transitions in real-time as part of their function, we also are beginning to learn more about the dynamics of disorder-to-order transitions along evolutionary time-scales. Intrinsically disordered regions endow proteins with functional promiscuity, which is further enhanced by the ability of some of these regions to undergo real-time disorder-to-order transitions. Disorder content affects gene retention after whole genome duplication, but it is not necessarily conserved. Altered patterns of disorder resulting from evolutionary disorder-to-order transitions indicate that disorder evolves to modify function through refining stability, regulation, and interactions. Here, we review the evolution of intrinsically disordered regions in eukaryotic proteins. We discuss the interplay between secondary structure and disorder on evolutionary time-scales, the importance of disorder for eukaryotic proteome expansion and functional divergence, and the evolutionary dynamics of disorder.

Keywords: Disorder-to-order transition; Dosage; Evolutionary dynamics; Functional divergence; Gene duplication; Intrinsic disorder; Neutrality; Protein evolution.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • Eukaryota / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins / chemistry
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proteome


  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins
  • Proteome