Computational Disorder Analysis in Ethylene Response Factors Uncovers Binding Motifs Critical to Their Diverse Functions Sun, Xiaolin; Malhis, Nawar; Zhao, Bi; Xue, Bin; Gsponer, Joerg; Rikkerink, Erik H. A.
APETALA2/ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR transcription factors (AP2/ERFs) play crucial roles in adaptation to stresses such as those caused by pathogens, wounding and cold. Although their name suggests a specific role in ethylene signalling, some ERF members also co-ordinate signals regulated by other key plant stress hormones such as jasmonate, abscisic acid and salicylate. We analysed a set of ERF proteins from three divergent plant species for intrinsically disorder regions containing conserved segments involved in protein–protein interaction known as Molecular Recognition Features (MoRFs). Then we correlated the MoRFs identified with a number of known functional features where these could be identified. Our analyses suggest that MoRFs, with plasticity in their disordered surroundings, are highly functional and may have been shuffled between related protein families driven by selection. A particularly important role may be played by the alpha helical component of the structured DNA binding domain to permit specificity. We also present examples of computationally identified MoRFs that have no known function and provide a valuable conceptual framework to link both disordered and ordered structural features within this family to diverse function.
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