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Structural biology of intrinsically disordered proteins: Revisiting unsolved mysteries

Sigalov, Alexander B.
Biochimie 2016 v.125 pp. 112-118
biophysics, dimerization, lipids, medicine, proteins
The emergence of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) has challenged the classical protein structure-function paradigm by introducing a new paradigm of “coupled binding and folding”. This paradigm suggests that IDPs fold upon binding to their partners. Further studies, however, revealed a novel and previously unrecognized phenomenon of “uncoupled binding and folding” suggesting that IDPs do not necessarily fold upon interaction with their lipid and protein partners. The complex and often unusual biophysics of IDPs makes structural characterization of these proteins and their complexes not only challenging but often resulting in opposite conclusions. For this reason, some crucial questions in this field remain unsolved for well over a decade. Considering an important role of IDPs in cellular regulation, signaling and control in health and disease, more efforts are needed to solve these mysteries. Here, I focus on two long-standing contradictions in the literature concerning dimerization and membrane-binding activities of IDPs. Molecular explanation of these discrepancies is provided. I also demonstrate how resolution of these critical issues in the field of IDPs results in our expanded understanding of cell function and has multiple applications in biology and medicine.