Cryptic sequence features within the disordered protein p27Kip1 regulate cell cycle signaling

Rahul K. Das, Yongqi Huang, Aaron H. Phillips, Richard W. Kriwacki, Rohit V. Pappu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Peptide motifs embedded within intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) of proteins are often the sites of posttranslational modifications that control cell-signaling pathways. How do IDR sequences modulate the functionalities of motifs? We answer this question using the polyampholytic C-terminal IDR of the cell cycle inhibitory protein p27Kip1 (p27). Phosphorylation of Thr-187 (T187) within the p27 IDR controls entry into S phase of the cell division cycle. Additionally, the conformational properties of polyampholytic sequences are predicted to be influenced by the linear patterning of oppositely charged residues. Therefore, we designed sequence variants of the p27 IDR to alter charge patterning outside the primary substrate motif containing T187. Computer simulations and biophysical measurements confirm predictions regarding the impact of charge patterning on the global dimensions of IDRs. Through functional studies, we uncover cryptic sequence features within the p27 IDR that influence the efficiency of T187 phosphorylation. Specifically, we find a positive correlation between T187 phosphorylation efficiency and the weighted net charge per residue of an auxiliary motif. We also find that accumulation of positive charges within the auxiliary motif can diminish the efficiency of T187 phosphorylation because this increases the likelihood of long-range intra-IDR interactions that involve both the primary and auxiliary motifs and inhibit their contributions to function. Importantly, our findings suggest that the cryptic sequence features of the WT p27 IDR negatively regulate T187 phosphorylation signaling. Our approaches provide a generalizable strategy for uncovering the influence of sequence contexts on the functionalities of primary motifs in other IDRs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5616-5621
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 17 2016


  • Disordered regions
  • Motif
  • P27


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