Evolution of Intrinsic Disorder in Protein Loops

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intrinsic disorder accounts for the flexibility of protein loops, molecular building blocks that are largely responsible for the processes and molecular functions of the living world. While loops likely represent early structural forms that served as intermediates in the emergence of protein structural domains, their origin and evolution remain poorly understood. Here, we conduct a phylogenomic survey of disorder in loop prototypes sourced from the ArchDB classification. Tracing prototypes associated with protein fold families along an evolutionary chronology revealed that ancient prototypes tended to be more disordered than their derived counterparts, with ordered prototypes developing later in evolution. This highlights the central evolutionary role of disorder and flexibility. While mean disorder increased with time, a minority of ordered prototypes exist that emerged early in evolutionary history, possibly driven by the need to preserve specific molecular functions. We also revealed the percolation of evolutionary constraints from higher to lower levels of organization. Percolation resulted in trade-offs between flexibility and rigidity that impacted prototype structure and geometry. Our findings provide a deep evolutionary view of the link between structure, disorder, flexibility, and function, as well as insights into the evolutionary role of intrinsic disorder in loops and their contribution to protein structure and function.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2055
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • chronology
  • structural domain
  • protein structure
  • protein evolution
  • molecular function
  • loop prototype
  • intrinsically disordered region
  • flexibility
  • early evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Palaeontology
  • Space and Planetary Science


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