Intrinsically Disordered Proteins Link Alternative Splicing and Post-translational Modifications to Complex Cell Signaling and Regulation

Jianhong Zhou, Suwen Zhao, A. Keith Dunker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Intrinsically disordered proteins and regions (IDPs and IDRs) lack well-defined tertiary structures, yet carry out various important cellular functions, especially those associated with cell signaling and regulation. In eukaryotes, IDPs and IDRs contain the preferred loci for both alternative splicing (AS) and many post-translational modifications (PTMs). Furthermore, AS and/or PTMs at these loci generally alter the signaling outcomes associated with these IDPs or IDRs, where the functional cooperation of these three features is named the IDP–AS–PTM toolkit. However, the prevalence of such functional modulations remains unknown. Also, the signal-altering mechanisms by which AS, and PTMs modulate function and the extent to which AS and PTMs collaborate in their signaling modulations have not been well defined for particular protein examples. Here we focus on three important signaling and regulatory IDR-containing protein families in humans, namely, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which are transmembrane proteins; the nuclear factors of activated T cells (NFATs), which are transcription factors; and the Src family kinases (SFKs), which are signaling enzymes. The goals here are to determine how AS and PTMs individually alter the outcomes of the signaling carried out by the various IDRs and to determine whether AS and PTMs work together to bring about differential cellular responses. We also present data indicating that a wide range of other signaling IDPs or IDRs undergo both AS- and PTM-based modifications, suggesting that they, too, likely take advantage of signal outcome modulations that result from collaboration between these two events. Hence, we propose that the widespread cooperation of IDPs, AS and/or PTMs provides an IDP–AS–PTM toolkit and substantially contributes to the vast complexity of eukaryotic cell signaling systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2342-2359
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 3 2018


  • alternative splicing
  • differential and context-dependent signaling
  • intrinsic disorder
  • post-translational modification
  • signaling modulation and regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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