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Conformational and functional flexibility promote protein evolvability. High evolvability allows related proteins to functionally diverge and perhaps to neostructuralize. p53 is a multifunctional protein frequently referred to as the Guardian of the Genome–a hub for e.g. incoming and outgoing signals in apoptosis and DNA repair. p53 has been found to be structurally disordered, an extreme form of conformational flexibility. Here, p53, and its paralogs p63 and p73, were studied for further insights into the evolutionary dynamics of structural disorder, secondary structure, and phosphorylation. This study is focused on the post gene duplication phase for the p53 family in vertebrates, but also visits the origin of the protein family and the early domain loss and gain events. Functional divergence, measured by rapid evolutionary dynamics of protein domains, structural properties, and phosphorylation propensity, is inferred across vertebrate p53 proteins, in p63 and p73 from fish, and between the three paralogs. In particular, structurally disordered regions are redistributed among paralogs, but within clades redistribution of structural disorder also appears to be an ongoing process. Despite its deemed importance as the Guardian of the Genome, p53 is indeed a protein with high evolvability as seen not only in rearranged structural disorder, but also in fluctuating domain sequence signatures among lineages.






Originally published in PLoS One.

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