Intrinsically disordered proteins and regions (IDPs/IDRs) are characterized by well-defined sequence-to-conformation relationships (SCRs). These relationships refer to the sequence-specific preferences for average sizes, shapes, residue-specific secondary structure propensities, and amplitudes of multiscale conformational fluctuations. SCRs are discerned from the sequence-specific conformational ensembles of IDPs. A vast majority of IDPs are actually tethered to folded domains (FDs). This raises the question of whether or not SCRs inferred for IDPs are applicable to IDRs tethered to FDs. Here, we use atomistic simulations based on a well-established forcefield paradigm and an enhanced sampling method to obtain comparative assessments of SCRs for 13 archetypal IDRs modeled as autonomous units, as C-terminal tails connected to FDs, and as linkers between pairs of FDs. Our studies uncover a set of general observations regarding context-independent versus context-dependent SCRs of IDRs. SCRs are minimally perturbed upon tethering to FDs if the IDRs are deficient in charged residues and for polyampholytic IDRs where the oppositely charged residues within the sequence of the IDR are separated into distinct blocks. In contrast, the interplay between IDRs and tethered FDs has a significant modulatory effect on SCRs if the IDRs have intermediate fractions of charged residues or if they have sequence-intrinsic conformational preferences for canonical random coils. Our findings suggest that IDRs with context-independent SCRs might be independent evolutionary modules, whereas IDRs with context-dependent SCRs might co-evolve with the FDs to which they are tethered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2403-2421
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 3 2018


  • folded domains
  • intrinsically disordered proteins
  • intrinsically disordered regions
  • sequence-to-conformation relationships


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