The Robustness of a Signaling Complex to Domain Rearrangements Facilitates Network Evolution

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The rearrangement of protein domains is known to have key roles in the evolution of signaling networks and, consequently, is a major tool used to synthetically rewire networks. However, natural mutational events leading to the creation of proteins with novel domain combinations, such as in frame fusions followed by domain loss, retrotranspositions, or translocations, to name a few, often simultaneously replace pre-existing genes. Thus, while proteins with new domain combinations may establish novel network connections, it is not clear how the concomitant deletions are tolerated. We investigated the mechanisms that enable signaling networks to tolerate domain rearrangement-mediated gene replacements. Using as a model system the yeast mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK)-mediated mating pathway, we analyzed 92 domain-rearrangement events affecting 11 genes. Our results indicate that, while domain rearrangement events that result in the loss of catalytic activities within the signaling complex are not tolerated, domain rearrangements can drastically alter protein interactions without impairing function. This suggests that signaling complexes can maintain function even when some components are recruited to alternative sites within the complex. Furthermore, we also found that the ability of the complex to tolerate changes in interaction partners does not depend on long disordered linkers that often connect domains. Taken together, our results suggest that some signaling complexes are dynamic ensembles with loose spatial constraints that could be easily re-shaped by evolution and, therefore, are ideal targets for cellular engineering.




Sato, P. M., Yoganathan, K., Jung, J. H., & Peisajovich, S. G. (2014). The Robustness of a Signaling Complex to Domain Rearrangements Facilitates Network Evolution. PLoS Biology, 12(12).

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