Resolving the Ambiguity: Making Sense of Intrinsic Disorder When PDB Structures Disagree

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protein data bank, PDB, intrinsically disordered protein, intrinsically disordered protein region, disorder prediction, missing residues, X-ray crystallography

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Missing regions in X-ray crystal structures in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) have played a foundational role in the study of intrinsically disordered protein regions (IDPRs), especially in the development of in silico predictors of intrinsic disorder. However, a missing region is only a weak indication of intrinsic disorder, and this uncertainty is compounded by the presence of ambiguous regions, where more than one structure of the same protein sequence “disagrees” in terms of the presence or absence of missing residues. The question is this: are these ambiguous regions intrinsically disordered, or are they the result of static disorder that arises from experimental conditions, ensembles of structures, or domain wobbling? A novel way of looking at ambiguous regions in terms of the pattern between multiple PDB structures has been demonstrated. It was found that the propensity for intrinsic disorder increases as the level of ambiguity decreases. However, it is also shown that ambiguity is more likely to occur as the protein region is placed within different environmental conditions, and even the most ambiguous regions as a set display compositional bias that suggests flexibility. The results suggested that ambiguity is a natural result for many IDPRs crystallized under different conditions and that static disorder and wobbling domains are relatively rare. Instead, it is more likely that ambiguity arises because many of these regions were conditionally or partially disordered.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Protein Science, v. 25, issue 3, p. 676-688