Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 77, Issue 3, pp 205–223 | Cite as

A functionally required unfoldome from the plant kingdom: intrinsically disordered N-terminal domains of GRAS proteins are involved in molecular recognition during plant development

  • Xiaolin Sun
  • Bin Xue
  • William T. Jones
  • Erik Rikkerink
  • A. Keith Dunker
  • Vladimir N. Uversky


The intrinsic disorder is highly abundant in eukaryotic genomes. In the animal kingdom, numerous intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) have been characterized, especially in cell signalling and transcription regulation. An intrinsically disordered region often folds in different structures allowing an IDP to recognize and bind different partners at various binding interfaces. In contrast, there have only been a few reports of IDPs from the plant kingdom. Plant-specific GRAS proteins play critical and diverse roles in plant development and signalling and often act as integrators of signals from multiple plant growth regulatory inputs. Using computational and bioinformatics tools, we demonstrate here that the GRAS proteins are intrinsically disordered, thus forming the first functionally required unfoldome in the plant kingdom. Furthermore, the N-terminal domains of GRAS proteins are predicted to contain numerous Molecular Recognition Features (MoRFs), short interaction-prone segments that are located within extended disorder regions and are able to recognize their interacting partners and to undergo disorder-to-order transitions upon binding to these specific partners. Overlapping with the relatively conserved motifs in the N-terminal domains of GRAS proteins, these predicted MoRFs represent the potential protein–protein binding sites and may be involved in molecular recognition during plant development. This study enables us to propose a conceptual framework that guides future experimental approaches to understand structure–function relationships of the entire GRAS family.


Intrinsically disordered protein (IDP) GRAS proteins Molecular recognition Plant development Signalling Unfoldome 



We appreciate Dr. Predrag Radivojac for his help in predicting phosphorylation sites.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaolin Sun
    • 1
  • Bin Xue
    • 2
  • William T. Jones
    • 1
  • Erik Rikkerink
    • 3
  • A. Keith Dunker
    • 4
  • Vladimir N. Uversky
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food ResearchPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Molecular Medicine, College of MedicineUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food ResearchAucklandNew Zealand
  4. 4.Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of MedicineIndiana UniversityIndianapolisUSA
  5. 5.Institute for Biological Instrumentation, Russian Academy of SciencesMoscow RegionRussia

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