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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Protein disorder in plants: a view from the chloroplast

Inmaculada Yruela12* and Bruno Contreras-Moreira123

Author Affiliations

1 Estación Experimental de Aula Dei, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (EEAD-CSIC), Avda. Montañana, 1005, Zaragoza, 50059, Spain

2 Institute of Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems (BIFI), Universidad de Zaragoza, Mariano Esquillor, Edificio I + D, Zaragoza, 50018, Spain

3 Fundación ARAID, Zaragoza, Spain

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:165  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-165

Published: 13 September 2012



The intrinsically unstructured state of some proteins, observed in all living organisms, is essential for basic cellular functions. In this field the available information from plants is limited but it has been reached a point where these proteins can be comprehensively classified on the basis of disorder, function and evolution.


Our analysis of plant genomes confirms that nuclear-encoded proteins follow the same trend than other multi-cellular eukaryotes; however, chloroplast- and mitochondria- encoded proteins conserve the patterns of Archaea and Bacteria, in agreement with their phylogenetic origin. Based on current knowledge about gene transference from the chloroplast to the nucleus, we report a strong correlation between the rate of disorder of transferred and nuclear-encoded proteins, even for polypeptides that play functional roles back in the chloroplast. We further investigate this trend by reviewing the set of chloroplast ribosomal proteins, one of the most representative transferred gene clusters, finding that the ribosomal large subunit, assembled from a majority of nuclear-encoded proteins, is clearly more unstructured than the small one, which integrates mostly plastid-encoded proteins.


Our observations suggest that the evolutionary dynamics of the plant nucleus adds disordered segments to genes alike, regardless of their origin, with the notable exception of proteins currently encoded in both genomes, probably due to functional constraints.

Chloroplast; Intrinsically protein disorder; Plant genome; Gene transfer; Evolution