Eukaryotic cells are highly complex systems; however, they manage to attain this complexity with a surprisingly small number of protein products. This is due, in part, to the fact that the functions of the eukaryotic proteome can be modulated and controlled by a vast network of largely reversible post-translational modifications. Such modifications change the chemical nature of certain amino acid side chains and thereby can be used to modulate diverse protein functions such as enzyme activity and binding events. Here we review recent advances in the characterization of the native mechanisms by which cells utilize post-translational modifications to send biological signals as well as recent successes in engineering such systems. We highlight roles for protein disorder in signal propagation in these systems.
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